While many women know that they shouldn’t be treated differently to men at work, it can be hard to know what the law says and what to do if you feel that you are being mistreated. Have a read below to find out what the law protects you from and what to do if you think you may be discriminated against.
What are my rights as a woman at work?
It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against somebody because of their sex or gender, whether they are male or female, or self-identified as another gender. However, the majority of cases of workplace discrimination are against women. There is no place for workplace bullying, harassment or even teasing, and women are protected against these in the 2010 Equality Act.
Besides direct discrimination, such as the examples mentioned above, women are also protected from indirect workplace discrimination based on their sex. This means that it is illegal to have procedures or policies, or act in a particular way, which will indirectly negatively affect women. For example, if an employer insists that the promotions are only offered to those people who work in a particular department, but this is a male-dominated department, then no women in the company will be able to progress with a promotion. This is indirect discrimination based on sex.
In addition to sex discrimination, the Equality act protects people who are changing gender through gender reassignment. It is up to you whether you disclose your gender reassessment to an employer; they have no legal right to know about this personal experience. If you feel comfortable, it may be beneficial to tell your employer that this is a significant life-change, which may mean you need extra support at work.
Other rights you have as a woman at work include the right to speak out against discrimination, either towards yourself or others. You also have the right to protection against victimisation from speaking out against harassment or discrimination. Victimisation is the term used to describe being mistreated because you supported a claim, or made a claim yourself, related to discrimination based on a protected characteristic.
Your rights under the Equality Act protect you from discrimination in all aspects of employment. This includes recruitment and selection, training, promotion, pay and benefits, redundancy and dismissal and employment conditions.
What should you do if you are facing discrimination?
The first thing you can do is raise it informally with the parties involved, whether that be a manager or colleague. There is the possibility that you may be able to resolve the issue internally without legal procedure. This doesn’t mean that your feelings and experiences aren’t being taken seriously; instead, it’s a much more straightforward and less distressing process for you without legal intervention.
However, if you feel that the problem is persisting and raising it informally is not an option, you may want to seek HR support and take it to the Employment Tribunal. The Employment Tribunal will take an independent and unbiased assessment of the situation. You can find help for employment tribunals with Citizens Advice and on the government website.
If you feel you are facing gender or sex discrimination at work, it’s a good idea to keep a copy of all evidence you have. This may be letters, emails, payslips, dates, names and incidents. This will be extremely helpful if you do need to escalate the situation.
For more information, visit our guide to pregnancy and maternity, where you can find information on your rights as a pregnant person and new parent at work.