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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 their dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them, 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 they 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)