Sex and Gender Reassignment Discrimination in the Workplace
Despite an energetic campaign of the UK government to promote the benefits of gender diversity in the workplace which was also strongly supported by the media, research reveals that sex discrimination at work is anything but a thing of the past. The severest forms of gender-based discrimination have been virtually eliminated, however, unequal treatment of men and women is still a relatively common occurrence, especially when women are applying for the so-called male occupations and higher positions. Even though sex discrimination in the workplace typically involves women, men can be discriminated against as well.
Research Reveals the Persisting Sex Discrimination in the UK
According to recent studies, nearly 90 percent of full-time employed women in the UK believe that sex discrimination in the workplace is still very much alive. As much as half of all women who participated in research report that they may have been discriminated against at work just because they are women. Furthermore, one third of the employed women believe that their gender had negatively affected their career. Likewise, one third of women believe they are being paid less than their male colleagues because of their sex. But what is perhaps even more concerning is that every 1 out of 4 women said they were thinking about leaving their job because they have been discriminated against.
All Types of Discrimination Because of Sex or Gender Reassignment in the Workplace Unlawful
Under the UK law against discrimination, any type of unfair treatment due to the worker’s sex or gender reassignment is unlawful, including the so-called positive discrimination. This means that employers mustn’t give an unfair advantage to one sex. For example, they are not allowed to favour women just because they used to be discriminated in the past. But they are allowed to use the so-called positive action, that is providing a special opportunity to one sex in order to create a greater balance.
Under the Equality Act 2010, employers are also legally obliged to prevent discrimination because of gender reassignment which is protected characteristic as well.
Preventing Sex and Gender Reassignment Discrimination in the Workplace
Employers who want to prevent sex and gender reassignment discrimination in the workplace should be aware that they obliged to make no distinction between men, women and transsexual people in recruitment, promotion, pay, benefits, etc. But they are also obliged to ensure that their employees are not discriminated against because of:
- pregnancy, maternity leave
- sexual orientation and marital status
- caring responsibilities (e.g. caring for a child, an adult with disability or an elderly)
Also, steps should be taken to prevent sexual harassment - both unwanted physical advances and sexually offensive behaviour – among co-workers.