Sex Discrimination

It is unlawful for your employer to discriminate against you on the grounds of your sex. If you are discriminated against then you may be entitled to claim compensation. There are a number of different ways in which your employer may discriminate against you. They may do so ‘directly’, by deliberately discriminating against you on the grounds of your gender (e.g. sexually harassing you or deliberately denying you an opportunity for promotion on the grounds of your gender). Alternatively they may discriminate against you ‘indirectly’, by means of a policy or a criterion which has an adverse effect on you because of your sex or marital status. Examples of each of these different forms of discrimination are set out below. Remember the Equality Act 2010, applies to all aspects of your work including selection for a job, training, promotion, work practices, dismissal or any other disadvantage such as sexual harassment.

Direct Sex Discrimination

An example of direct sex discrimination would include being bullied or harassed by your employer on the grounds of your sex. Alternatively your employer may discriminate against you by allowing colleagues to use offensive and discriminatory language.

Example A

You are sent a number of sexually explicit ‘joke’ e-mails by your work colleagues, which you are offended by and which you consider treat women less favourably. You tell your employer you are offended by these e-mails and consider them discriminatory. Your employer does nothing about it and tells you that it is just ‘banter’. This could be considered sex discrimination for which your employer may be liable. Another example is where you are overlooked for promotion or other opportunities on the grounds of your sex.

Example B

You are working in an environment where you are constantly overlooked for promotion or a pay increase in favour of your male colleagues. There is no valid reason for this and you believe it is on the basis that your employer discriminates against you on the grounds of your sex. In these circumstances an Employment Tribunal is likely to require your employer to prove that they did not discriminate against you in their decisions.

Indirect Sex Discrimination

Indirect Discrimination is where your employer has a policy or criteria, which whilst not directly gender related has an adverse effect on you because of your sex or marital status. Indirect Discrimination may sometimes be justified if your employer is able to show that it is a genuine occupational requirement.

Example C

You apply for a job with a security firm but are told there is a restriction that they do not employ people under six feet tall. Clearly this policy is likely to adversely effect more female applicants. The security firm would need to convince a tribunal that the height restriction was a genuine occupational requirement.

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