Sex Discrimination

It is against the law for someone you work for to treat you unfairly because of your sex.

People who are protected by the law on sex discrimination include:

  • people who are applying for a job
  • apprentices and people on work experience
  • self-employed people who have a contract to provide a service
  • contract and agency workers
  • part-time workers.

The Equality Act 2010 also extends protection based on perception or association.  Therefore, workers are protected from being treated less favourably due to their own sex, their perceived sec, or their association with somebody of a particular sex.

"Sex" is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and it means being a woman or being a man.

Sex discrimination can be direct or indirect. Direct discrimination occurs if you are being treated less favourably by your employer than someone else because of your sex. For example, if you have not been promoted because you are female.

Indirect discrimination occurs if your employer has a "provision, criterion or practice" which puts you (or would put you) at a disadvantage because of your sex, even though the rule does not exist in order to disadvantage you. For example, a requirement to work full time may be harder for women to fulfil as they are more likely than men to be looking after children. Your employer is entitled to argue that the discrimination is legitimate if they can show a objective justification for the rule that leads to the discrimination.

Some common situations at work when you could experience sex discrimination include:

  • when you are applying for promotion
  • difference in pay between you and your counterparts of the opposite gender
  • unfair access to training and development opportunities, or other benefits
  • decisions about who is chosen for redundancy

Other aspects of sex discrimination include:

  • the right not to be treated differently from other employees because you are pregnant, or you have been on maternity leave
  • sexual harassment – conduct towards you which is of a sexual nature, and is intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive.

Note also that it is not sex discrimination against a man if a woman who is pregnant or on maternity leave is given special treatment, within reason.

You may decide to resign if you feel that your position at work is no longer tenable as a result of the discrimination you are suffering, in which case you may be able to claim for constructive dismissal. Furthermore, if you have been subjected to any detriments as a result of a complaint you have made (or intend to make) about the discrimination you have suffered, you may also have a claim for victimisation.

If you believe that you are being discriminated against on the grounds of your sex, or you simply want more information about your rights, Ashby Cohen can help you. We specialise in employment law cases, and our years of experience as employment lawyers make us uniquely qualified to assist you with any sex discrimination issues you may have. Please do contact us for an initial free telephone consultation.

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