A Plain English Guide To British Employment Law

Sex Discrimination

Men and women in the same employment have the right to equal pay for work of the same value. If you feel you are suffering sex discrimination, employment law can help.

Sex discrimination and equal pay – employment law

Under the Equality Act 2010 it’s unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you because of your sex.

Sex discrimination employment law covers almost all workers (men and women) and all types of organisations in the UK. It covers:

  • recruitment
  • employment terms and conditions
  • pay and benefits
  • training
  • promotion and transfer opportunities
  • redundancy
  • dismissal

Equal terms – equal pay

Where men and women, working for the same employer, are doing one of the following they are entitled to the same terms in their employment contract:

  • the same or similar work (like work)
  • work rated as equivalent in a job evaluation study by the employer
  • work of equal value

There may be exceptions where there is a genuine material factor which explains the difference.

Pay secrecy clauses in employment contracts are unenforceable if you are trying to find out if any difference in pay is connected with a ‘protected characteristic’, for example sex.

Positive action

In specific circumstances, an employer may encourage or offer support specifically to men or women, and this ‘positive action’ is allowed under sex discrimination employment law.

For example, an employer who has no women managers might offer some training in management skills only to women or encourage them to apply for management jobs.

What to do if you are discriminated against

If you think you are being discriminated against you may be able to bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal for sexual discrimination. However, it’s best to talk to your employer first to try to sort out the matter informally. You are entitled to write to your employer if you think you have been sexually discriminated against or sexually harassed.

If you want further advice Acas (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) offers free, confidential and impartial advice on employment law rights issues or you can visit the employment contacts pages for other useful contacts. If you are a member of a trade union, you can get help, support and advice from them.