The law on sex discrimination at work

Which laws govern discrimination on grounds of a person’s sex in the workplace?

The law relating to discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of a person’s sex is contained in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Equal Pay Act 1970 

On 8 April 2010 the Equalities Act 2010 was passed. So as to enable people and organisations affected by the Equalities Act 2010 time to prepare for the new law, only a few provisions of the Act, however, came into force that day. It is currently anticipated that most of the main provisions of the Act will come into force in October 2010, although since there has been a change of government since the Act was passed this is currently not clear. 

When the Equalities Act 2010 does come into force the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Equal Pay Act 1970 will be repealed in their entirety.

What acts are prohibited by the Sex Discrimination Act 1975?

Discrimination by employers

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 makes it unlawful to discriminate, whether directly or indirectly, against an individual as an applicant for employment or as an employee on grounds of their sex. The Act covers discrimination against women, men, persons who have undergone gender reassignment and married persons of either sex. No account is, however, to be taken of the special treatment afforded to women in connection with pregnancy or childbirth.

Discrimination by principals against women

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 makes it unlawful for a principal to discriminate in a manner specified by the Act against a woman who is employed not by the principal himself but by another person, who supplies the individual under a contract made with the principal.

Discrimination against women receiving training

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 makes it unlawful, in the case of a woman seeking or undergoing training which would help her gain employment, for any person who provides, or makes arrangements for the provision of or facilities for such training to discriminate against her in a manner specified by the Act.

Discrimination by employment agencies against women

Under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 it is unlawful for an employment agency to discriminate against a woman in a manner specified by the Act.

Other

It is also unlawful, under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, for a person to induce, or attempt to induce, a person to do one of the above acts by providing or offering to provide him with any benefit or subjecting or threatening to subject him to any detriment. 

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For more information on:

  • Are all discriminatory acts prohibited?
  • Genuine occupational requirements
  • Occupational pension schemes
  • Monies paid under a contract of employment
  • Certain benefits, facilities and services provided by an employer
  • Gender reassignment
  • Other
  • How does the Equal Pay Act 1970 protect women in the workplace?