No. There are different types of sex discrimination, and it doesn’t have to be intentional to be unlawful. The main forms are:
- Direct discrimination is where you are less favourably treated on grounds of your sex by a service provider who:
- Refuses or deliberately fails to provide you with a service
- Provides a service but it is of a lower quality, or in a worse manner or on worse terms than is normally the case.
Example 1: A man and a woman of similar financial standing both apply for a £9,000 loan. The man is granted the loan but the woman is told that she must provide a guarantor.
Example 2: A group of men are charged a higher deposit than women by a private landlord renting out a shared house.
Example 3: A landlord refuses to rent a one-bedroom apartment in a residential block of flats to a person undergoing gender reassignment because he feels that other tenants will complain.
- Indirect discrimination is where an organisation unjustifiably operates a rule or policy that looks the same for everyone but in effect disadvantages people from your particular sex.
Example 1: A mortgage provider refuses to provide someone with a mortgage because they work part-time. This will affect women more as a large majority of them are part-time workers.
Example 2: A supermarket locates its baby changing facilities in the women’s toilets. This means that men cannot change their children when out shopping.
- Sexual harassment is where you are the target of unwanted behaviour that is of a sexual nature, and / or you find that because of your sex your dignity is violated by an intimidating, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.
For example: A female student is subjected to offensive remarks of a sexual nature from her Driving Instructor. He also comments on her personal appearance as well as making derogatory comments about other female passersby.
- Victimisation is where you have made a complaint of sex discrimination or helped someone else with a complaint under the sex discrimination law, and suffered as a result.
For example: A man is refused service in a restaurant because he gave evidence at a sex discrimination court case against it.
People are more likely to complain about employment discrimination than being treated unfairly in relation to services. However, in recent years we have helped people with issues such as:
- Accessing pubs, sports clubs and financial services
- Harassment from service providers
- Negative experiences of the health services
You are protected from sex discrimination in the provision of a wide range of services whether they are paid for or provided free of charge. They include:
- Access to and use of public places
- Housing provided by private landlords, managing agents and housing associations as well as public accommodation providers such as NIHE
- Accommodation in a hotel or other similar establishment
- Getting or using services such as:
– Financial services – Banking / Insurance
– Government departments
- Professional or trade services
However, there are limited circumstances when sex discrimination is allowed. This is called a genuine occupational requirement (GOR):
- Sporting organisations can discriminate between the sexes where the physical strength, stamina, or physique of the average woman puts her at a disadvantage.
- Voluntary bodies can restrict membership to one sex and provide its services to those members as long as that is the main reason why it was set up. For example women only or men only leagues or teams and single sex sporting clubs.
- Services can be restricted to one sex if the users are likely to suffer ' serious embarrassment' at the presence of a member of the opposite sex or the users are likely to be in a state of undress - Women only saunas and leisure facilities
- Facilities or services can be restricted to one sex if they involve physical contact between the participants where a member of one sex might reasonably object if the contact was with a person of the opposite sex – a Self-defence class restricted to women only.
1. Contact our Discrimination Advice Officers who will provide you with free and confidential information and guidance to help you resolve your issue.
2. Raise your complaint directly with the service provider and seek a resolution.
3. If a resolution is not reached and you wish to take your case further we may be able to provide you with legal representation. You must lodge your complaint of discrimination with the County Court.
NB: Only a County Court decides whether the treatment you have complained of is unlawful discrimination. It is separate to, and independent from, the Equality Commission.
If you require assistance or would like to make a discrimination complaint, complete our online form or telephone 028 90 500 600 (10am-4pm, Mon-Fri).