Sex Discrimination

What Is Sex Discrimination?

Sex discrimination is when you are treated differently in a way which is related to your gender.

Have I been discriminated against? There are two ways an employer can discriminate against you on grounds of your sex. Look at the examples below and if your case is similar to any of these you should call our specialist Employment Barristers today.

  1. Direct discrimination is when you are mistreated or dismissed because of your gender. For example you are a female employee and you are up for redundancy with a male colleague. You have longer service, and are young with a husband who works. Your male counterpart is nearing retirement age and has a family and a mortgage. Your employer chooses to make you redundant because your male colleague is the breadwinner for his family, and you do not have similar commitments.
  • A common example of discrimination for women is pregnancy discrimination. Once pregnant (taken from date you carry the fertilised egg inside your body, or the embryo is implanted if IVF), you are protected from discrimination, provided your employer knows you are pregnant or the symptoms are such that your employer could reasonably expect you are. An example of discrimination due to pregnancy is where you come back from maternity leave only to be told you are being dismissed for redundancy. In fact, you know you job has been given to one of your male colleagues.
  1. Indirect discrimination is when you employer applies the same rules to everyone but these rules are more burdensome for you as a woman. For example your employer wants to change all employees’ hours from 8am to 4pm to 5am to 1pm, however you have a young family at home and this would cause problems with childcare. However, it may be that your employer can justify this change if it is deemed a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate end. This means balancing the discriminatory effect of this change against the reasonable needs of the employer, objectively determined. Economic factors can be taken into account.

There are also two other types of claim that can appear with sex discrimination. These are:

  1. Victimisation – this is when you bring discrimination proceedings, make an allegation of discrimination or give evidence about a complaint of discrimination and then you are treated badly as a result. For example, you complained to my manager about the naked calendar of a female celebrity, which your colleagues put up in the staff room. Now none of your colleagues will talk to you; they just whisper to each other and look at you when you walk past.
  1. Harassment is when you are subject to behaviour that is intended to mistreat or humiliate you or to create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for you be in. It comes in two types:
  • Sexual harassment – After your appraisal meeting today, your boss patted your bottom and told you to wear more short skirts. Now every time he walks past you desk he either winks at you or glances down at your legs and smiles or licks his lips.
  • Harassment as a result of submitting to or rejecting harassment – Your boss asked you to go home with him after you stayed late at work. You turned him down and now you have been rejected for the promotion you applied for. Prior to this, you were told that you were only one of two applicants and you were likely to get it. Your boss had the final say on the decision.

Are there times when sex discrimination is allowed? Yes, if your employer can show that the employee being of a certain sex is an occupational requirement, because of the nature and context of the work. The employer will also have to consider if the requirement is proportionate to what they are trying to achieve. Examples include:

  • An employer can require that their female changing room attendants in their shop are female to preserve customers’ privacy or decency.
  • A film director can require that the lead female role is given only to a female for authenticity purposes.
  • An employer can require that the employee is a male because the job involves living away from home in accommodation where there are no separate female sleeping and toilet facilities.

If you think there is no legitimate reason for requiring a certain sex for a certain job and you have lost out as a result, call us to today to discuss your case. How do I finance a claim? There are many ways in which claim can be financed. You may be entitled to Trade Union support. More promisingly, you may find on close examination of your household insurance policies that your benefit from legal expenses insurance – YEB barristers are expert at dealing with insurers. The highly publicised Employment Tribunal Fees should never in fact be a barrier to a deserving Employment Tribunal claims. What can I get? If your claim is successful, the possibilities are:

  • A declaration of your rights
  • A recommendation regarding the action your employer should take to reduce the effect the discrimination has on you
  • Compensation (no maximum amount). This is particularly important if your employer dismisses you in a way that is found to be discriminatory. If you were to claim only unfair dismissal your claim would be limited to £78,335 or one year’s pay whichever is the lower. If your dismissal is an act of discrimination this does not apply.
  • Your compensation can include damages for injury to feelings.


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