Sex Discrimination- There’s a lot of it about
If you are an employer who loses a claim for sex discrimination in the Employment Tribunal, then you could be penalised an unlimited amount of compensation. You can’t afford to trivialise or ignore this issue.
“Surely its a load of politically correct nonsense?”
The Sex Discrimination Act was passed by Parliament in 1975 so it has been around for a long time. The law has developed. It presents a real risk to employers who do not take it seriously. It can also cause career frustration and stress among employees and contributes to staff turnover.
“What is sex discrimination anyway?”
Discrimination under the Act can be “direct” or “indirect”. It is direct if you treat someone “less favourably” on the grounds of his/her sex or status. In other words, the discrimination is open, explicitly on the grounds of sex or marital status.
The discrimination is “indirect” if you apply a condition which would appear to allow men or women to comply, but which practically means that considerably fewer people of one sex can comply than of the other sex. For instance, a requirement that job applicants must be “6 feet tall” must be indirect discrimination – far fewer women than men are 6 feet tall.
“Surely I can impose some conditions on my workforce?”
There are cases where sex will be a genuine occupational qualification. Employers need to be careful in relying on this – there are cases where it has been decided that men should be allowed to sell women’s clothes. However, one can envisage situations where intimacy would prevent the use of employees of a particular sex. For instance, if Marks & Spencer employed men in their bra measuring section, it is suggested that not many women would be comfortable buying their underwear at Marks & Spencer.
“What about promotion? Or pay rises?”
If you deny an employee promotion or a pay rise merely on the grounds of their sex, then this is direct sexual discrimination. It could cost you a lot of money.
“How do I avoid problems?”
See a solicitor who knows something about these type of claims. Hand Morgan & Owen have experience of advising employers who have been subjected to these claims and also advising employees who have successfully won compensation from their employers after suffering discrimination. We can help you minimise the risks of such a claim
Contact Nigel Pepper in our Stafford office on 01785 211411 for an initial discussion.
Published on web site – April 2007
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances. (50587)