Workplace sexual discrimination law prohibits discrimination on the basis of:
- marital status;
- gender reassignment; &
- sexual orientation.
The law applies to all areas of employment, including:
Direct discrimination means intentional discrimination (e.g., saying that no men can work in a nursery school).
'Genuine occupational qualification'
Employers may discriminate in some cases, however, when recruiting workers - this is called 'genuine occupational qualification.' Examples include:
- some jobs in single-sex schools
- some jobs in welfare services
- acting jobs that need a man or a woman
Employers may also encourage or offer support specifically to men or women and this 'positive action' is allowed in some circumstances.
For example, an employer who has no women managers might offer management skills training only to women or encourage them to apply for management jobs.
Positive action applies only to training and encouragement to apply for jobs, however, so when it comes to choosing who is to get a job the employer must consider all candidates on their suitability alone.
Religious organisations may also discriminate between applicants so as to comply with "the doctrines of the religion or to avoid offending the religious susceptibilities of ... followers."
Indirect sexual discrimination
Indirect sexual discrimination means unintended discrimination (e.g., length of service benefits might indirectly discriminate against women who take time out from work to raise children).
Sexual harassment means unwanted sexual conduct that violates a person's dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, offensive or humiliating environment for them. For example, if a colleague persists in making remarks about your figure, or your boss promises you promotion in exchange for sex, you could claim sexual harassment and ask your employer to take action.
It is also unlawful for an employer to victimise an individual for bringing a discrimination claim, giving evidence in a discrimination case or making an allegation of sex discrimination.
** Additional information & advice **
Depending on the circumstances of your case, however, it may be better to speak with a solicitor who specialises in employment law. You can be matched with an employment law solicitor in your area for free via solicitor matching services, which can also help you to understand the best course of action for your situation and whether you are ready to hire a solicitor.
And, again depending on your situation, they may be able to help you find a solicitor who will agree to take your case on a "no win no fee" basis, which means you don't have to pay for the solicitor's services unless you win your case.