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Sex Discrimination at Work
It is unlawful for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sex against an 'employee' or 'worker'. For example if you have been:
  • refused employment on the basis of your sex 
  • offered employment on less favourable terms on the basis of your sex
  • denied promotion, training and other benefits on the basis of your sex
  • subjected to a detriment on the basis of your sex
  • dismissed on the basis of your sex
  • subjected to unwanted sexual conduct,
you may have a possible claim for sex discrimination.

Qualifications for bringing a sex discrimination claim

To bring a claim of sex discrimination, you will need to demonstrate that you are or were an employee or a worker, or were applying for a job as an employee or worker.

There is no qualifying period of employment required to bring a claim.

Who is protected?

Claims can only be presented to an Employment Tribunal by an employee or worker who has been discriminated against on one of a number of prescribed grounds relating to sex, namely:
  • Gender: If a woman is treated less favourably than a man on grounds of her gender it will amount to discrimination.Likewise, if a man is treated less favourably than a woman on grounds of his gender, that will also amount to discrimination.
  • Gender reassignment: It is discriminatory to treat a person less favourably on the grounds that they have undergone (or are undergoing) treatment for gender reassignment. This specifically includes denying somebody a period of absence to undergo a treatment if they would have been permitted a period of absence if ill or injured.
  • Marriage and civil partnerships: It is discriminatory to treat a married person or a person in a civil partnership less favourably than a single person.
  • Homosexuality: see Lawson-West's Discrimination on the basis of Sexual Orientation Page.

Types of discrimination

Employment law recognises two different concepts of discrimination: direct and indirect.

Direct discrimination is treating somebody less favourably because of their sex.

Indirect discrimination involves imposing a condition or requirement that a considerably smaller proportion of persons of a certain sex will be able to comply with. Unless the employer can objectively justify the requirement, the imposing of the provision may amount to sex discrimination.

Victimisation is in effect a third type of discrimination. A person is discriminated against if he is treated less favourably because he or she has brought proceedings in the past in relation to a discrimination claim, or provided evidence or information in connection with such a claim, or alleged that the employer (or a third party) has done an act which would amount to a breach of discrimination legislation.

The Regulations also provide for 'vicarious liability' provisions, making an employer responsible for anything done by a person in the course of his/her employment and for ensuring that if a person knowingly aids another person to do an unlawful act they are both treated as doing that act.


  • If an employee or worker has been the victim of unlawful discrimination, an Employment Tribunal has the power to order the payment of compensation. The award normally comprises two elements: injury to feelings and loss of earnings. In addition, Tribunals have jurisdiction to award damages for personal injury.
  • In addition to ordering compensation, Tribunals are able to make an order declaring the rights of the affected individual and make a recommendation that the employer takes, within a specified period.
If you think you have been subject to discrimination at work on the basis of sex, please phone Ashley Hunt, Vaishali Thakerar or Carrie-Ann Randall on 0116 212 1000 or complete the form on the right. Lawson-West offer free initial consultations so it won't cost you a penny to find out if you have a claim.

We also run a number of free walk-in advice clinics at our offices in Leicester, Wigston & Market Harborough.
Lawson-West will make sure that your sex discrimination claim is funded on the most appropriate basis and that will often be on a No Win No Fee basis. This means that Lawson-West have a vested interest in ensuring your employment tribunal claim is successful.