Sex Discrimination Support Guide

Rightly so, it’s illegal to discriminate anyone on the grounds of their sex or sexual orientation – that bit’s clear. But what might not be so clear is what exactly the law means for you, and what your obligations as an employer are.

Fortunately, that’s where our industry-leading expertise comes in. Our HR & Employment Law specialists are here to help you stamp out sex discrimination and keep you and your business on the right side of the law – always.

We’ll help you roll out appropriate policies and practices. We’ll make sure your recruitment process is watertight. We’ll arm you with ample training. We’ll guide you through any grievances. We’ll hold your hand through the disciplinary process. And we’ll fend off any allegations of sex discrimination. All so you can get on with running your business – because that’s what you do best.

To talk to an expert and see how we could start supporting you today, simply fill in the form below.


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What’s sex discrimination?

The right to not be discriminated against based on sex or sexual orientation is covered by the Equality Act 2010.

Sex discrimination is a prominent issue in many workplaces, and it occurs when an employee is discriminated against based on their or someone they know’s sex or sexual orientation in any of the following circumstances:

Sex discrimination can be direct or indirect, one-off or regular, intentional or unintentional. What’s important to remember though, is that it doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful.

Types of sex discrimination

There are four main types of sex discrimination: direct, indirect, harassment and victimisation. So, let’s delve into each in a little more detail.

Direct sex discrimination

What is it? Example
Direct sex discrimination is when an individual’s treated less favourably because of either their own sex, their perceived sex, or their association with someone of a particular sex.


Putting together a job description that says the position would be best suited to male applicants only.

Indirect sex discrimination

What is it? Example
Indirect sex discrimination is when one of your rules, practices or procedures places employees or applicants of a certain sex at a disadvantage.Assuming the female member of the team will make the brews, take meeting minutes and go out and buy team presents.

It’s worth noting that for someone to make an indirect sex discrimination claim, they must be able to evidence how they were personally disadvantaged as a result, along with how the same treatment would disadvantage other employees or applicants of the same sex.


What is it? Example
Harassment in relation to sex discrimination can be split into three categories:


· Unwanted conduct because of someone’s sex, that causes them to feel distressed, humiliated or offended;


· Unwanted conduct of a sexual nature – this is what’s known as sexual harassment; and


· Being treated unfavourably after rejecting or being victim to sexual harassment.

Repeatedly asking sexual questions, like inquiries about someone’s sexual history or their sexual orientation.


Or, continually making jokes of a sexual nature or inappropriately touching an employee.


What is it? Example
This is when an employee has either made or intends to make a complaint around sex discrimination or harassment, or has given or plans to give evidence relating to discrimination or harassment, and is treated adversely as a result.Out-casting the employee in question from team activities and making them feel like an outsider.

For more information and examples on the different types of sex discrimination, get in touch with our HR & Employment Law experts on 0345 844 1111 or

The exception to the rule

Albeit very rarely, every now and then, there may be grounds to lawfully discriminate someone on the grounds of their sex.

Example 1: where it’s necessary to preserve decency or privacy (e.g. a shop assistant providing a bra-fitting service or a prison officer carrying out body searches).

Example 2: if the employee’s required to live in accommodation that isn’t equipped for people of that sex, and it’s not reasonable for the employer to make the necessary adjustments.

Example 3: if a business actively encourages a certain sex to apply for a position to balance out previously under-represented or disadvantaged roles. For example, a construction firm reiterating that female applications are welcome and encouraged.

How to prevent sex discrimination

To prevent sex discrimination rearing its head in the first place, it’s important to have a legally tight, well-communicated and followed Equal Opportunities policy in place.

Your policy should clearly express your anti-discrimination stance and what the repercussions of non-conformity are. For a flavour of what your Equal Opportunities policy should look like, check out our free template on it here.

All’s not lost if you don’t have these in place already – that’s where we come in.

As well as your policy, there are a number of everyday techniques you can use prevent sex discrimination in your business, like:

  • Avoid referencing stereotypes – like women do all the cooking
  • Make sure all employees are up-to-date with their training
  • Make sure your management team practice what they preach
  • Have a clear and understood complaints process in place
  • If you witness any untoward behaviour, act on it
  • Follow through on your enforcement so that people know you take sex discrimination seriously, and that it’s not something they can get away with.

Fancy a chat?

We’re here to help with everything from creating bespoke policies and terms and conditions of employment, to talking you through disciplinary and dismissal processes. With us by your side, you can spend less time stressing about sex discrimination, and more time doing what you love – running and growing your business!

For more information on how our industry-leading HR & Employment Law experts can start supporting your business’ compliance – without the hassle, get in touch with the team today on 0345 844 1111 or

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