Sex discrimination at work
The Equality Act 2010 states that you cannot be discriminated against because of your sex; in the workplace or anywhere else. If you believe that you've been treated unfairly in the workplace because of your sex, talk to one of our friendly employment law solicitors today
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What is sex discrimination?
Under the terms of the , it's unlawful for any employer to discriminate against any employee on the basis of their sex. While you might think that this simply means a woman can't be paid less than a man for doing essentially the same job, the fact is that men are also frequently subjected to discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of their sex; sometimes because while maternity leave is seen as acceptable, paternity leave is discouraged or frowned upon.
What sorts of sex discrimination are there?
While all forms of sex discrimination are unlawful, they fall into five broad categories; each of which presents its own challenges:
- Direct discrimination: This might occur when a man is discriminated against during the recruitment process, because the employer believes they wouldn't fit into a predominantly female workforce, or they believe that the role requires more sensitivity than a man could provide, such as working in a care home or vice versa with regards to a predominantly male workforce and a female applicant.
- Indirect discrimination: This might take place due to rules or practices that apply to both sexes, yet which have a disproportionate effect on one sex or the other. For example, if a company only offers full-time jobs, this could discriminate against women, who are statistically more likely to be caring for school-age children and wanting to work part-time.
- Victimisation: This can happen when you've made a complaint about sex discrimination in the workplace; perhaps because you've raised a grievance about being denied flexible working to help deal with the school run, or because you've complained about sexist attitudes in the workplace.
- Sexual harassment: This can apply to both sexes, and occurs when you're subjected to lewd comments, innuendo or harassment of a sexual nature, both verbal and/or physical. Naturally, this can put you in an extremely distressing position; it's the duty of your employer to take immediate action when this sort of harassment happens.
- Harassment on the grounds of sex: This can apply to both sexes, this occurs when you're subjected to unwanted conduct related to your sex such as name calling on the grounds of your sex which you may find offensive
What can I do about sex discrimination?
If you've suffered sex discrimination at work, or during the recruitment process, you need to act quickly. That's because you have only three months, less one day, from the date of the last discriminatory act to start a complaint at an employment tribunal. You can bring complaints against your employer and individual perpetrators of the discrimination or harassment.
Before you can do this, you first need to submit details of your claim to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), so they can establish whether your employer will agree to 'early conciliation'. This takes up to a month, which will be added onto the three-month period if necessary. Where ACAS conciliation fails, we may then be able to file a claim at an employment tribunal on your behalf.
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