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Sex Discrimination at Work

Making sense of the law on sex discrimination for employees

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 prohibited sex discrimination in the workplace (sometimes also referred to as gender discrimination at work). Since October 2010 this has been regulated by the Equality Act. This legislation protects employees and workers (and anyone under a contract to personally carry out work) from less favourable treatment as a result of their gender.

Sex discrimination laws also prohibit less favourable treatment of someone due to gender reassignment. Discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment is where a person is treated less favourably on the grounds they intend to have, have had or are undergoing gender reassignment. Gender discrimination law also covers absences for gender reassignment. As a result, it is discriminatory to treat an individual with absence for gender reassignment less favourably than if their absence was due to sickness, injury or another cause.

It is also unlawful to discriminate against married people or those in a civil partnership, but not because they are not married or in a civil partnership. Pregnant women and new mothers are protected by specific workplace rights − see maternity discrimination and pregnancy discrimination for more.

If you believe you have been discriminated against due to your gender, you should meet with a specialist sex discrimination lawyer to discuss your case.

Types of sex discrimination

  • Direct sex discrimination where an individual is or would be treated less favourably than someone of the opposite sex, in comparable circumstances, due to their gender.
  • Indirect sex discrimination where a provision, criterion or practice applied to both sexes puts or would put one sex, including the individual concerned, at a disadvantage and which cannot be objectively justified (ie it cannot be demonstrated to be a proportional means of achieving a legitimate aim).
  • Victimisation where someone is treated detrimentally because they have made or intend to make a complaint or allegation of sex/gender discrimination at work. Also where they give or intend to give evidence in relation to a complaint.
  • Harassment where unwanted conduct has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Unwanted conduct of a sexual nature which has the same purpose or effect is also specifically prohibited. This covers individuals treated less favourably because they rejected or submitted to such unwanted sexual conduct.

How we help employees challenge sex discrimination at work

Our discrimination law solicitors at martin searle solicitors advise on and have brought a wide range of sex discrimination at work claims. If you are an employee, agency worker or job applicant and have been discriminated against due to your sex, we can help. We can also advise if you believe you have a victimisation claim where you have been turned down for or dismissed from a position as a result of the actions of a former employer where you had raised a sex discrimination grievance.

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