Sex Discrimination and Your Rights
When it comes to sex discrimination and your rights there is a certain amount of protection guaranteed by law. Anyone who discriminates against another because of their gender can face legal consequences.
The Law and Sex DiscriminationThe Sex Discrimination Act was introduced in 1975 in order to stop discrimination due to a person’s gender. Sex discrimination has frequently occurred in the past, particularly in the workplace and specifically towards women. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 allows for equality between men and women when it comes to equal pay for the same job. It also means that situations where ‘men only’ advertising appeared, such as job adverts, could count as sex discrimination.
Examples of Sex DiscriminationSex discrimination can, and has occurred in a number of different areas. Sex discrimination can either be direct or indirect. Direct discrimination due to sex can be implied if any of the following were to occur:
- Sexual harassment, this applies to both men and women
- Adverting jobs as ‘men only’
- Refusing to give services such as financial agreements without the consent of a husband
- Unfair dismissal of an employee if she were to become pregnant
- Free entry to clubs or other facilities to either men or women if both are not given the same concession
Discrimination to Men and WomenThe sex discrimination act applies to both men and women. However, in the majority of cases sex discrimination will occur to men rather than women. In cases of employment the protection starts from the minute the employee begins a job. In cases of direct discrimination it does not matter whether the discrimination was actually intended or not. Employers are not able to justify their action with direct discrimination. It is only when indirect discrimination occurs that employers have a chance to justify their actions.
Indirect DiscriminationIndirect discrimination is where a certain practice would be applied to both sexes but puts one sex at a disadvantage. For instance, if an employer makes it a stipulation that employees should not have young children. This would be a disadvantage to women as there are a much higher number of women than men who have young children. If this case were to reach the employment tribunal stage then the claimant would have to prove this disadvantage. At the same time the employer does have a right to justify his or her actions as to why this rule is needed.
Pregnancy and DiscriminationThe Sex Discrimination Act also covers issues relating to pregnancy and maternity leave. For instance an employer cannot treat women unfairly when they become pregnant. They also cannot treat women unfairly when it comes to issues such as maternity leave or time off for maternity linked illnesses. This type of discrimination has occurred on a regular basis in the workplace and dismissing an employee who becomes pregnant is unlawful.
Other Areas of Sex DiscriminationThere are a wide range of areas where discriminating against someone due to their gender will be unlawful. This will include housing issues, education, providing goods and services, and financial matters such as obtaining credit or mortgages. Advertisements such as job adverts by recruiters must also not discriminate and advertise for men or women only positions.
Enforcing your RightsSex discrimination cases are never altogether straightforward. A claimant must be able to prove that the sex discrimination actually occurred. A tribunal does not need concrete proof but it must be proved that the discrimination probably occurred. Once the facts of the case have been noted it will then be up to the accused party to prove that no actual discrimination took place. Time limits for complaints do exist and complaints do need to be lodged within three months of the incident occurring. Tribunals do have the power to extend this three month limit.
Sex discrimination, wherever it happens, should never be tolerated. The Sex Discrimination Act is in place to guaranteed rights and protection for both men and women against sex discrimination and harassment. More information on sex discrimination can be found at the Citizens Advice Bureau or the Equality and Human Rights Commission.