Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Ways to tackle sexual discrimination at work

Even though there is legislation in place to prevent sexual discrimination in the workplace, unfortunately, there are still many cases where this occurs. Sexual discrimination comes in many different forms and can affect both men and women. In many instances, it is considered to be harassment, victimisation and bullying. This kind of behaviour can be extremely upsetting to the person involved and can have a negative and detrimental effect on their mental wellbeing.

As an employer or employee, it’s important to recognise when sexual discrimination occurs, deal with it appropriately and put systems into place that will prevent it from happening in the future.

What is sexual discrimination?

Although it may come under many different guises, here are some examples of the types of sexual discrimination you might experience at work.

  • Different rates of pay for male and females doing the same job.
  • Employing someone based purely on their sex.
  • Being made to wear specific clothing that is associated with being male or female. For example, if women are made to wear skirts and heeled shoes at work.
  • Being made redundant or dismissed because of your sex.
  • Training or specific roles within the company only being offered to one sex.
  • Refusing flexible working hours to enable a parent to take their child to school.
  • Comments about someone’s appearance.
  • Sexist remarks or jokes.
  • Sexual harassment such as inappropriate physical advances or verbal suggestive remarks, and offensive comments related to a person’s sex.

The Independent reported on a recent study undertaken by researchers from the University College of London, that women who have been subjected to sexual discrimination are more likely to suffer from depression as a result, and 26% reported psychological distress.

As an employee experiencing sexual discrimination, it is important to tackle the issue either directly with the person involved, your boss, or a member of the company’s HR team. We understand this may seem like a daunting subject to broach and you might be worried about the consequences, however, Citizens Advice can provide you with further guidance.

Ways to deal with sexual discrimination

  • Keep a record of any incidents, making sure you document the date and specific behaviour or comments.
  • Make the person involved aware that you find their comments or behaviour offensive, it makes you feel uncomfortable and you would like them to stop.
  • Speak to someone in HR or someone in authority at work. 
  • Get advice from ACAS or Citizens Advice.

If the sexual discrimination continues or is not dealt with, you may have to seek legal advice.

As an employer, it is vital that you put procedures into place to prevent sexual discrimination in the workplace. You can also get further information and advice from ACAS about how to prevent sexual harassment, discrimination and victimisation.

Helping people who are depressed or with other mental health issues as a result of discrimination

Providing an opportunity for employees impacted by discrimination to talk to a trained therapist about their experiences and feelings, can help them continue to work, or get back to work as soon as possible. 

First Psychology Assistance provides a range of services for organisations and businesses including online counselling and psychological therapy. For further details visit our website. We also provide bespoke and off the shelf training solutions to support mental health at work.

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