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Sex discrimination

Updating author: Tina McKevitt


  • Sex is a "protected characteristic" under the Equality Act 2010. (See Meaning of sex)
  • As well as being liable for its own actions, there are circumstances in which an employer will be liable for the acts of others. (See Who is liable?)
  • The Equality Act 2010 prohibits direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment. (See Prohibited conduct)
  • Direct discrimination is where, because of the protected characteristic of sex, a person treats another person less favourably than that person treats or would treat other persons. (See Direct discrimination)
  • Indirect discrimination occurs where a "provision, criterion or practice" puts one sex at a "particular disadvantage". Under the Equality Act 2010, it is possible for employers to justify indirect discrimination. (See Indirect discrimination and Justification)
  • Harassment is unwanted conduct related to an individual's sex, or conduct of a sexual nature, that has the purpose or effect of violating his or her dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him or her, or less favourable treatment because of a person's rejection of, or submission to, sex-related harassment or harassment of a sexual nature. (See Harassment)
  • Victimisation occurs when a person is subjected to a detriment because he or she did a protected act. (See Victimisation)
  • Employers that apply different clothing or appearance rules to men and women leave themselves open to claims of sex discrimination. (See Dress and appearance requirements)
  • There are some exceptions from unlawful sex discrimination. (See Occupational requirements and Other exceptions)