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Prettys Solicitors Ipswich

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Sex Discrimination Claims Hit a Five-Year High

The Employment Tribunal has seen a rise in the number of sex discrimination claims made leading to a five-year high. Latest figures show that 9,300 claims were made last year, which is a 69% increase. Attempts by companies to tackle sex discrimination, for example, by banning alcohol at work events, or introducing other policies in relation to conduct at work have not prevented claims being brought.

Sex discrimination is prohibited by the Equality Act 2010, which provides that men and women should be treated equally in respect of employment and working conditions.  The Equality Act 2010 specifically prohibits direct and indirect sex discrimination, sex harassment, sexual harassment and victimisation in the work place. 

There are a number of myths relating to sex discrimination, and here, we explore the truth behind some of these:

Myth 1:  The Equality Act 2010 was introduced only to protect woman from being unlawfully discriminated against by men.  

     This is WRONG. Men are also protected under the Equality Act 2010 and sex discrimination against men is just as unlawful as sex discrimination against women.

Myth 2:  Women tend to be the main carers of children so it’s ok to give preference to their requests for flexible working over men.

     This is WRONG. Flexible working requests should be treated consistently and on an individual basis regardless of sex, taking into account the needs of the business. Men are likely to suffer discriminatory treatment if a woman’s request is considered a priority or if a man’s request is seen as easier to deny.  It is also important to remember that flexible working requests can be for reasons other than childcare and there are only specific reasons that a formal flexible working request can be refused.

Myth 3: If someone makes a joke which wasn’t intended to be offensive or intimidating then it isn’t considered harassment.  

     This is WRONG. The impact of the behaviour as perceived by the victim is what is important, even if the alleged harasser did not intend to harass the victim. The tribunal will also consider whether it was reasonable for the complainant to feel the way that they do.

Raising employee awareness about what amount to sex discrimination and the policies that are in place to both prevent and deal with any issues is important, particularly given the number of misconceptions around what will amount to discrimination.  If you need any help or guidance on preventing sex discrimination in the workplace, then please get in touch. 

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