Gender / Sex Discrimination
This section of the website is about service provision.
Who is protected?
Sex discrimination is where people are treated less favourably because of their gender. This includes people who are:
- Transsexual people (people who intend to undergo treatment to change their sex, are undergoing treatment to change their sex, or have undergone such treatment).
Sex discrimination law make it clear that it is unlawful to treat a woman less favourably because she is pregnant or because of her maternity, when providing goods, facilities or services, or in the disposal or management of premises (apart from excluded matters).
Where is it unlawful?
It is unlawful to discriminate in the:
- provision of goods, facilities and services
- disposal or management of premises
- provision of education (does not apply for transsexual people)
- exercise of public functions
or to carry out other unlawful acts such as publishing discriminatory adverts, pressurising others to commit unlawful acts or knowingly aid another to act contrary to the law. This area does not cover transsexual people.
What is discrimination in goods, facilities and services?
It is unlawful for service providers
- to refuse services
- provide services of a lower standard or quality
- provide the service in a worse manner
- provide on less favourable terms
on grounds of gender.
|A local swimming pool refuses to allow a transsexual man who has undergone gender assignment to use a pool on the basis that his presence might upset other pool users.|
|A mortgage provider refuses to give mortgages to women who work part-time. This is more likely to affect more women than men and might constitute unlawful discrimination.
A woman who is a single parent applies for a bursary for a professional studies course on a part-time basis. Her application is refused because the organisation only considers applications in respect of full time study.
The Sex Discrimination (NI) Order prohibits three types of harassment in service provision:
- sex harassment,
- sexual harassment and
- gender reassignment harassment.
These forms of harassment are unlawful if they have the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
Service providers who are employers have obligations under the amended Sex Discrimination (NI) Order to take reasonably practicable steps to prevent the repeated harassment of an employee by third parties, such as clients or customers.
|An employer knows that on two or more occasions, a customer when being served in the bar has sexually harassed a female member of staff. The manager of the bar has witnessed one of the incidents and the staff member has complained about the two incidents. If the manager chooses to do nothing about the incidents then the employer can be liable as employers have to take reasonable practicable steps.|
For further information on third party harassment ,click Sex Equality legislation- update for employers
Disposal or management of premises
It is unlawful for anyone involved in the selling, letting or management of premises (including land) to discriminate on the grounds of gender .This means they cannot discriminate when:
- selling premises or land
- renting premises or land
- offering premises on different terms
- putting together information for housing lists
- or evicting people because of their gender.
|A landlord offers a flat for rent to men with a higher deposit than he offers it to women.|
Sex discrimination in education
The responsible bodies of all education providers such as schools (private or public) , further education colleges, universities and other education providers have to ensure that they do not discriminate on the grounds of gender:
- in the terms on which it offers to admit a student or by refusing or deliberately ommitting to accept an application
- for children and young people who are already students, the school has to ensure that it is not discriminating in the way it affords them access to any benefits, facilities or services
- by excluding young people or subjecting them to any detriment on the grounds of their gender.
It is also unlawful for the governing body of a college or university to discriminate
- in the arrangements for the purpose of selecting people for admission into the institution
- by subjecting a student or applicant to harassment
Further education colleges and universities also have obligations under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 to produce an equality scheme. Please see further in Equality Commission guidance on Section 75.
For further information on how education can affect change by challenging stereotypes, please see: Gender Equality in Action- Practical steps that teachers and career advisors can take to challenge gender stereotyping with examples of projects in Northern Ireland which promote non- traditional careers, which is available in our publications section.
Exercise of public functions
The law also makes it unlawful for a public authority, in carrying out its functions to discriminate on grounds of gender. Examples of functions include any form of social security, healthcare, any form of social protection or any form of social advantage.
As a result it is unlawful to discriminate in:
- the scope of schemes and conditions of access thereto
- the obligation to contribute and the calculation of contributions
- the calculation of benefits including increases due in respect of a spouse and for dependents and the conditions governing the duration and retention of entitlement to benefits.
It is important to note the general exception in relation to national security and acts done under statutory authority is the same for gender and other areas.