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Sexual discrimination at work as an employer

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Sexual discrimination at work

Jodie Hill
Jodie Hill Thrive law employment lawyer,


By Jodie Hill – Thrive Law

Leeds United employee Lucy Ward won her battle in an unfair dismissal and sexual discrimination case recently in which she was awarded £290,000 in compensation. Leeds United were instructed by the tribunal service to also pay Lucy Ward’s legal fees which were in excess of £100,000. Usually each party pays their owns costs so this is really significant.

This case shows the damage a claim of this nature can have to a business, not only from a costs perspective but the reputational damage that comes with it.

This prompted us to create a series of preventative tips that you can implement in your business to avoid ending up in a position like Leeds united!

The Equality Act 2010

Some employers may not even be aware that The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for employers to act in a discriminative way because of an employee’s gender. Not only is the company liable but the individual who acts in a discriminatory manner can also be held personally liable!

Employers should also recognise that there are places in which discrimination is more likely to happen, for example, recruiting new staff, conversations outside of work (e.g. by social media), suggestive remarks, unwanted touching and office parties (yes this still happens, a lot!)

Tips for employers to help to prevent sex discrimination from occurring

Here are some tips for employers to help to prevent sex discrimination from occurring in the workplace (which in turn reduces the risk to the business whilst protecting your staff)

1) Introduce an equal opportunity and an anti-discrimination policy for employees to adhere to and have clear consequences in place for anyone in breach of these policies.

2) Provide employees with regular training and encouragement on equality and diversity. It should be made abundantly clear what is and is not acceptable so there is no room for doubt on the part of the employees.

3) Make individuals aware that they can be personally liable for sexual discrimination and NOT just the company

4) Urge any employees who experience sexual discrimination to report this to HR immediately to avoid it going any further

5) Manage accusations of discrimination appropriately and in line with their policies and procedures (take each allegation seriously)
In any organisation prevention is better than cure, therefore a key area that employers can strive to develop is a culture which has zero-tolerance to sexual harassment. In a culture where sexual harassment is unacceptable employees would feel more comfortable if they had to make a complaint of this behaviour without any fear of repercussions or not being taken seriously.

What happens if there is a sexual discrimination claim in your workplace?

You will usually hear from ACAS first, as this is the next step in a legal process. Take this opportunity to explore what’s happened, gather evidence and understand what her claims are. If it looks like she has grounds for s claim this is a great opportunity to explore early settlement before significant costs are incurred with legal fees but also before it is made public.

We can help you determine whether someone’s claim has genuine legal grounds for the alleged claims, advise you on reasonable settlement figures and the value of any purported claims and if it doesn’t settle we can represent you every step of the way.

Hopefully if you follow our tips and take action now, you can avoid becoming entrenched in costly litigation.

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