What is the law around gender equality at work

Last updated: 04 Mar 2020

The law on discrimination

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Equality Act says you must not be discriminated against because:

  • You are (or are not) a particular sex
  • Someone thinks you are the opposite sex (discrimination by perception)
  • You are connected to someone of a particular sex (discrimination by association).

A difference in treatment may be lawful if:

  • Being a particular sex is essential for a job. This is called an occupational requirement. This includes some jobs that require someone of a particular sex for reasons of privacy and decency or where personal services are provided. For example: a gym could employ a changing room attendant who is the same sex as the users of that room. Similarly, a women’s refuge that only provides services to women could require its staff to be women
  • An organisation is taking positive action to encourage or develop people of a sex that is under-represented or disadvantaged in a role or activity. For example: an engineering firm places a job advert for a trainee engineer stating that applications from women are welcome.

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