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FAQs: Sex Discrimination

Workplace discrimination legislation protects people from unfair treatment at work due to their sex. Our team of expert Employment Lawyers answer some frequently asked questions about Sex Discrimination at Work

  1. I have been working for my employer for ten years. Over this time, a number of my male colleagues have been promoted whilst I have been overlooked. This is despite the fact that I have better qualifications and more experience in this role. Am I being discriminated against because I am a woman?
  2. My boss has told me that I am too forthright and domineering in my communications at work and is threatening to put me on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). I believe I am direct and clear about my boundaries. He has not made similar remarks about any of my male colleagues, who in contrast are praised for being ‘assertive’. What can I do?
  3. The company that I work for are restructuring and I suspect that I will be made redundant as I am an older woman in my 50s. How can I challenge this?
  4. My female boss prefers all my male colleagues to me, openly flirts with them and goes out for drinks with them after work. They then receive preferential treatment in the workplace such as being given the more interesting jobs and promotion. Is there anything I can do about this?
  5. I am the father of a two year old child. My employer is very reluctant to let me take time off to take my child to appointments or to look after them when they are ill. However, they seem to have no problem with my female colleagues doing so. Am I being discriminated against?
  6. I am applying for a job in a very male-dominated industry. When invited to interview, the interviewer asked if I would fit in with the culture at work. I suspect that they did not ask this question to any male applicants who had applied. I was subsequently not appointed to the role. Do I have a case for discrimination?

I have been working for my employer for ten years. Over this time, a number of my male colleagues have been promoted whilst I have been overlooked. This is despite the fact that I have better qualifications and more experience in this role. Am I being discriminated against because I am a woman?

This could be a case of Direct Sex Discrimination. This is when you are treated less favourably than someone else due to your sex. In order to prove that Direct Sex Discrimination has taken place, you need to compare your treatment with the treatment of someone who doesn’t have the same protected characteristic as you. This person is described by the Equality Act as a comparator. In this case, the comparator would be one or more of your male colleagues.

If you believe you have been treated less favourably than your male colleagues you should raise a formal grievance to elicit as much evidence about the unfairness. Your employer will have the opportunity to put this right without you having to go to an Employment Tribunal. You need to be careful of the time limits for submitting your case for Acas Early Conciliation prior to bringing an Employment Tribunal claim. This is 3 months minus a day from discovery of any discrimination or the discriminatory act itself. It would be wise to speak to a member of our Employment Law team about what your options are.

My boss has told me that I am too forthright and domineering in my communications at work and is threatening to put me on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). I believe I am direct and clear about my boundaries. He has not made similar remarks about any of my male colleagues, who in contrast are praised for being ‘assertive’. What can I do?

It would seem that your boss is treating you less favourably than your male colleagues when there is no notable difference in the manner in which you communicate. This may be unconscious bias on the part of your boss, but it would still constitute discrimination. You may wish to raise this issue with your employer by submitting a formal grievance. As a matter of good practice they should deal with your formal grievance first before putting you on a PIP.

The company that I work for are restructuring and I suspect that I will be made redundant as I am an older woman in my 50s. How can I challenge this?

In a genuine redundancy situation, employers must follow a fair and reasonable redundancy process in order to avoid discriminating against anyone because of their protected characteristics such as sex and age and to avoid Employment Tribunal claims.

It is important to raise any issues of unfairness, such as the criteria chosen for selecting people for redundancy at the consultancy meetings as this may encourage subjective scoring. For example, the label “commercial awareness” can be very subjective.

If you believe your employer has unfairly selected you for redundancy due to your age and/or sex, our Employment Law solicitors can help you challenge this by helping you raise a formal grievance or by appealing your dismissal.

My female boss prefers all my male colleagues to me, openly flirts with them and goes out for drinks with them after work. They then receive preferential treatment in the workplace such as being given the more interesting jobs and promotion. Is there anything I can do about this?

Sex discrimination can be carried out by both men and women. The practice of providing preferential treatment to the male colleagues your boss socialises with so you are treated less favourably could constitute Sex Discrimination in the workplace. The only way to remedy this is to raise a formal grievance with all the facts so this can be looked at by someone independent who can decide if you are being treated less favourably.

Your employer may uphold your grievance and put this right. If they deny this is happening, you have the right to appeal. If there is still no change of heart by your employer at appeal you can issue a sex discrimination claim while still employed. You could also resign and claim constructive unfair dismissal if you can afford to resign with immediate effect.

You may be offered a Settlement Agreement with compensation for waiving your rights to bring a sex discrimination claims, either with your contract terminating, or alternatively so you can happily stay in employment. Our solicitors can advise you what a fair amount of compensation would be.

I am the father of a two year old child. My employer is very reluctant to let me take time off to take my child to appointments or to look after them when they are ill. However, they seem to have no problem with my female colleagues doing so. Am I being discriminated against?

Men can also experience sex discrimination in the workplace when compared with a female comparator. In this situation, it appears that you are being treated less favourably on the basis of your sex, perhaps because of outdated assumptions about how childcare is a ‘woman’s job’. It may be best to raise this informally with your line manager, but if things do not improve, you may want to submit a formal grievance.

I am applying for a job in a very male-dominated industry. When invited to interview, the interviewer asked if I would fit in with the culture at work. I suspect that they did not ask this question to any male applicants who had applied. I was subsequently not appointed to the role. Do I have a case for discrimination?

Workplace discrimination legislation protects job applicants as well as employees. If you believe that you have been discriminated against due to your sex during the hiring process, our Employment Law team can advise you as to what your options are. This may involve making a Subject Access Request to obtain the scoring and interview notes for other candidates. You could also raise a formal grievance although the Acas Code is unclear as to whether this applies to people who are not employees.

For expert advice on sex discrimination at work, contact our Employment Law team today on 01273 609911, or email info@ms-solicitors.co.uk.

Martin Searle Solicitors, 9 Marlborough Place, Brighton, BN1 1UB
T: 01273 609 991 info@ms-solicitors.co.uk

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