In the United Kingdom, the Equality Act 2010 stipulates that it is unlawful to discriminate against an individual in a workplace (gender discrimination) because:
- they are not (or are) a particular sex;
- someone thinks that they are the opposite sex (this is referred to as “discrimination by perception”)
- they are connected to someone of a particular sex (this is referred to as “discrimination by association”)
Under the Equality Act, sex can mean either female or male, or a group of people like women or girls, or men or boys.
Different Types Of Sex Discrimination
There are four main types of gender/sex discrimination.
This happens when someone treats you worse than someone of the opposite sex, because of your sex. For example – an organisation has different pay scales for male and female employees.
This type of discrimination happens when an organisation implements a particular policy that applies in the same way to employees of both sexes. However, such work policies put you at a disadvantage because of your sex.
For example – an employer decides to change shift timings for their staff so that they finish at 6 pm instead of 3 pm.
Female employees, especially those with children could be at a disadvantage as the new shift timings mean they cannot collect their children from childcare or school.
On the other hand, indirect sex discrimination can be permitted if the employer or organisation is able to prove that there is a reasonable cause for the policy (this is known as “objective justification”.)
Harassment in the workplace can occur when someone makes you feel humiliated, offended or degraded. This can happen due to:
- discrimination for one or more of the protected characteristics listed in the Equality Act 2010;
- unwanted conduct of a sexual nature (also called sexual harassment);
- unfair treatment after you refuse to put up with sexual harassment;
This happens when you are treated unreasonably or suffer detriment because you have made a complaint about gender discrimination under the Equality Act.