Common scenarios

Common scenarios: sex discrimination and sexual harassment

My employer has a policy which requires all employees to work fixed hours. This causes problems for me and other women workers with our childcare arrangements. Is this allowed? A policy which puts women at a disadvantage compared with men and which disadvantages an individual woman may be sex discrimination unless the employer can show that it is necessary for business reasons.

Example A company has a policy of refusing all flexible working requests by managers. One woman asks for flexible working to fit in with her childminder’s hours but the employer refuses. This policy puts female employees at a disadvantage compared to male employees because more of the women have childcare commitments. The employer must show that it is a proportionate way of achieving a business need. For example, the company may need all employees to be in the office during core hours to deal with customer calls and there is no employee who could cover.

I feel uncomfortable because men make sexist jokes and comments to each other in my workplace. Do I just have to let this go? No. Unwanted sexist jokes and comments are sexual harassment, even if they are not made directly to you.

Example A group of men working in an office make sexist jokes and send pornographic email forwards. They also rate the appearance of female customers out of ten. This makes their female colleague feel intimidated and embarrassed, even though the jokes and comments are not about her. This is sexual harassment.

I think I am being paid less than a male colleague. Is this allowed? Men and women must receive the same remuneration for doing the same job or equivalent jobs. This covers pay and also all benefits (for example bonus, pension, travel expenses, sick pay and insurance).

Example A man and a woman work in the same job for the same company. They receive the same salary, but the man gets private health insurance and the woman does not. This is likely to be a breach of equal pay law unless there is a good non-discriminatory reason for the difference.