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Sex Discrimination Act

This is a very basic introduction to the intricacies which are in the Sex Discrimination Act. The information on this page is not a substitution for legal advice. If you wish to discuss this further please contact our legal department

Responsibilities of the employer

In law you as an employer are not allowed to favour one person you employ by discriminating against another person due to their sex. In the same way you are not allowed to put restrictions on a job role that excludes women or makes it so difficult that women could not comply with the requirements.

This Law works the same way for men, discrimination or conditions which mean restrictions limiting the job role are unlawful.

As employer accountability for sex discrimination is your responsibility however, if another employee or worker is found to have discriminated against a fellow employee, then the employer will be “vicariously” liable for them as well.

Acts of sex discrimination whether on company property or at arranged functions such as company gatherings are also the employer’s responsibility.

As an employee
It is your responsibility to act towards fellow employees with respect for their gender and to support them. Intimidation, victimisation and discrimination should be actively discouraged.

It is important to know about the law on sex discrimination if:

  • You want to know your rights
  • You plan to employ someone
  • You provide training

Direct Sex Discrimination is when someone or a group decide to treat another person in an unsatisfactory way due to their gender,
This can be in relation to:

  • Recruitment
  • Training
  • Promotion
  • Selection for redundancy

Indirect Sex Discrimination – The Sex Discrimination Act now has two definitions

    • Relates to employment and vocational training
      • It is unlawful to apply a provision which is unjustifiable to a proportion of members of one gender
    • Related to the provision of education, goods, facilities, services and premises

Positive Sex Discrimination
This is where someone is given preferential treatment to a certain sex when selected.
"Can claims of Discrimination be made to Employment Tribunals?”

If you feel that you have been discriminated against, you may take a complaint to an employment tribunal within three months of the act complained of. There is no age or length of service requirements to bring a claim.

You do not have to have left employment before making a tribunal claim and there is no upper limit on the amount of compensation a tribunal can award.

Exceptions to the Sex Discrimination Act

There are 3 exceptions

  • Religious Employment
  • Where there is a genuine occupational qualification (GOQ)
  • Positive Action

Religious Employment

Religious establishments may execute discriminatory employment where established doctrines of religion exist.

Genuine Occupational Qualification (GOQ)

This is where the justification for a specific job role is clear cut such as a male or female actor to play a specific part.

Positive Action

This is where a job role is advertised to encourage a certain sex or group of society to apply for the position to increase numbers particularly in an ethnic group. It is as an aid to providing balance not as discrimination.


For Further information on this subject visit Sexual Harassment in the Workplace



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