Sex discrimination is against the law…but it happens.
If you have been treated differently compared to someone of the opposite sex without a good reason, you may be able to bring a claim in an Employment Tribunal for sex discrimination.
The treatment could be a one-off incident, a series, or as a result of a rule or policy which is unfair when applied to you. It doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful.
It makes no difference what sex you are or the sex of the person doing the discriminating.
It’s unlawful and you can take action to stop it and bring a claim in a Tribunal. This is where we come in. We are employment law specialists – it’s all we do.
There are four main types of unlawful sex discrimination.
1. Direct discrimination
This happens when someone treats you worse than someone of the opposite sex who is in a similar situation. The different treatment must be because of your sex.
- For example, your employer gives a male colleague a promotion over a female employee, even though he has less experience and qualifications. The woman in this situation may be able to claim that her employer has directly discriminated against her because of her sex. A male employee can make exactly the same claim if the situation were reversed.
2. Indirect discrimination
Indirect discrimination happens when an employer has a particular policy or way of working that applies in the same way to both sexes but which puts you at a disadvantage because of your sex.
- For example, your employer decides to change shift patterns for staff so that they finish at 5pm instead of 3pm. Female employees with caring responsibilities could be at a disadvantage if the new shift pattern means they cannot collect their children from school or childcare.
Indirect sex discrimination can be permitted if the organisation or employer is able to show that there is a good reason for the policy. This is known as objective justification.
There are three types of harassment relating to sex.
The first is when someone makes you feel humiliated, offended or degraded.
- For example, a manager makes comments that there is no point promoting women because they go off to have children. Even though he doesn’t direct these comments at a particular employee, one of the staff is very upset by this and worries about her career. This could be considered harassment.
The second type of harassment is known as ‘unwanted conduct of a sexual nature’ and covers verbal and physical treatment, like sexual comments or jokes, touching, or assault. It also covers sending emails of a sexual nature, or putting up pornographic pictures.
- For example, a manager makes sexual jokes to a female worker and implies that she will get a pay rise if she sleeps with him.
The third type of harassment is when someone treats you unfairly because you refused to put up with sexual harassment.
- For example, a manager invites you home after going out for a drink. You decline but a couple of weeks later you are turned down for a promotion. You believe this is because you turned down your boss’s proposition.
It can also cover unfair treatment you receive even if you had previously accepted sexual conduct.
- For example, you may have had a brief relationship with your boss. After it ended, you applied for a promotion but were turned down. You believe this is because the relationship with your manager had ended.
Harassment can never be justified. However, if an organisation or employer can show it did everything it could to prevent people who works there from behaving like that, it may be hard to succeed in a claim against your employer – although you could make a claim against the person doing the harassing.
This is when you are treated badly because you have made a complaint of sex related discrimination under the Equality Act. It can also occur if you are supporting someone who has made a complaint of sex discrimination.
- For example, a male colleague is helping a female co-worker with their claim of sex discrimination and makes a statement at an Employment Tribunal. The male colleague is then sacked or treated badly by their employer. This is victimisation because of sex.
I’m afraid to complain about discrimination
The Equality Act protects you if you’re treated badly because you’ve complained about discrimination or stood up for discrimination rights, either for yourself or for someone else. We will help to protect you and enforce your rights.
I have been discriminated against, what now?
You will want to know all your options before deciding what to do. This is what we are best at.
Sometimes it’s a good idea to raise a grievance with your employer – but it depends on your circumstances. You shouldn’t have to put up with being discriminated against and many people just want to leave work and never return. We are experienced negotiators and will try to secure you the best exit terms if this is what you want to do.
If, after going through the grievance procedure, you are not satisfied with the outcome, you could bring a claim against your employer (and possibly the person doing the discriminating too) in the Employment Tribunal. Any claim in the Employment Tribunal will need to be submitted within three months less one day of the discriminatory act. It is now mandatory to go through the Acas Early Conciliation scheme before you can submit a claim to the Tribunal. We can help you with this too.
In extreme cases of sex discrimination, you may also be entitled to resign and claim constructive dismissal without having to raise a grievance first. If you don’t want to raise a grievance and just resign, we will support you.
We will always give you clear, honest advice in terms that are easy to understand. Once you have decided what outcome you want, we will go all out to get it for you.
What compensation am I entitled to?
Unlike normal unfair dismissal claims, there is no maximum amount of compensation a Tribunal can award you.
In addition to damages for any losses you have suffered – such as wages or pension, compensation normally includes an award for injury to feelings. Tribunals are guided in what to award.
- Lower band (less serious cases): £900 to £9,000
- Middle band: £9,000 to £27,000
- Upper band (the most serious cases): £27,000 to £45,000
In exceptional cases, the award will be over £45,000
You only have a limited amount of time to take action to preserve your employment rights – usually just three months (less one day) from the date you were last discriminated against.
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