Discrimination on the ground of sex under the Equality Act 2010

What does the Act prohibit?

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination (whether direct or indirect), harassment and victimisation on the ground of a person’s sex whether they are a man or a woman.

What is direct discrimination?

Direct discrimination occurs where a person treats another person less favourably than he or she treats or would treat others on grounds of their sex. This may include, for example, denying a woman a job or promotion for fear that she may become pregnant.

However, conduct which would on the face of it amount to direct discrimination is permitted if the conduct amounts to a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

What is indirect discrimination?

Indirect discrimination occurs where a provision, criterion or practice, which is applied or would apply equally to persons not of the same sex, puts persons of a particular sex at a disadvantage. For example, a provision that affects only part time workers may indirectly discriminate against women since part time workers tend to be women.

Conduct which can be shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim is, however, permitted.

What is harassment?

Harassment occurs where a person is subjected to unwanted conduct related on grounds of their sex which has the purpose or effect of violating their dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for him. This may include, for example, making sexist jokes in the workplace.

What is victimisation?

Victimisation occurs where a person is subjected to a detriment by reason of the fact that he has (or it is believed that he has or may) carried out one of the following acts:

  • brought or given evidence or information in proceedings brought under the Act;

  • the doing of something for the purposes of or in connection with the Act.

  • made an allegation that a person has contravened the Act.

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For more information on:

  • In what circumstances does the Act apply?
  • Employment
  • Other situations
  • How is the Act enforced?