Experiencing Sexist Behaviour at Work? Here’s What you Can Do About It

Author:
Anita North
National Head of Employment
Date:
07/01/2022

While men are often praised in the boardroom for being assertive, tenacious, go-getters, women can often be labelled as bossy, aggressive, highly-strung, sensitive and over-emotional.

This is an example of sexist behaviour in the workplace.

Regardless of whether you’re male or female, if you feel like you’re being treated differently at work because of your gender, you don’t need to accept it and you can do something about it.

Being discriminated against because of your gender is against the law. Get in touch with one of our specialist Employment Lawyers find out more.

Call us on 0808 258 3531 or request a callback

Sexist Behaviour in the Workplace

Statistics show that 85% of women in the UK have seen or experienced some sort of sexist behaviour or gender discrimination, whilst they’ve been at work.

But what counts as sexist behaviour?

Sexist behaviour can sometimes be difficult to identify, but it sits right at the heart of gender inequality and is when you’re treated differently or unfairly because of your gender.

“It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you because of your sex.” – Citizens Advice Bureau, Discrimination Because of Sex

But sexist behaviour doesn’t just affect women: Men can also feel like they’ve been discriminated against because of their gender. It’s just not talked about as much.

There are generally two main types of sexist behaviour at work:

Direct Sexist Behaviour 

Direct sexist behaviour is a form of discrimination and it’s against the Equality Act 2010. So, if you’re treated differently or unfairly by someone just because of your sex, then you can take action.

Indirect Sexist Behaviour 

Under the Equality Act 2010, indirect sexist behaviour is when a practice, policy or rule is applied to everyone, but it puts you at a disadvantage because of your gender. And again, you can take action if this applies to you.

When Is It Not Sexist Behaviour at Work?

But, although sexist behaviour is about treating people differently because of their gender, there are times when men and women need to be treated differently at work.

For instance, if you run a women’s hostel, hiring a female member of staff rather than a male is likely to be the best option to keep everyone feeling safe and comfortable. This isn’t discrimination, this is an occupational requirement.

The Effects of Sexist Behaviour 

Being treated differently, whether it’s because of your age, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation or gender can produce feelings of worthlessness. It can change the way you behave, what you say and how you think. It can destroy your confidence, make you feel insecure and leave you feeling downhearted, discouraged and demotivated.

Talking down to you, eye-rolling, walking away mid-conversation, or yawning when you’re trying to get a point across are all forms of dismissive gender discrimination and it’s this type of attitude that can make you doubt your abilities at work.

What to Do About Sexist Behaviour At Work

Speak to Your Line Manager

If you are being treated unfairly at work because of your gender, and it’s starting to interfere with your ability to work, then you must report it to your line manager. They should be able to offer you support and put things in place to stop it from happening.

Report It to HR

It’s definitely worth speaking to HR about your concerns, no matter how small. The HR team should be well equipped and trained on how to handle discrimination and give you the advice and support you need to help you deal with it.

Take Legal Action

It’s against the law for your employer to treat you differently because of your gender. It’s also against the law for your employer to allow anyone else within the organisation to discriminate against you because of your gender. If you think you’re being treated unfairly at work because of your sex, contact the Employment Law team at Simpson Millar to discuss your situation.

We know how difficult and uncomfortable it is to be treated unfairly simply because of your gender. We’ll establish with you the best way to handle your discrimination case, and support you with:

  • Making an internal complaint
  • Negotiating a settlement or exit agreement with your employer, or
  • Representing you at an Employment Tribunal

Every 1 in 20 employees in the UK has been discriminated against because of their gender. But only 5% ever do anything about it.

As an employee, you have a right to be protected from sexist behaviour at work. If you’re being treated differently because of your gender and you feel that it’s affecting recruitment, promotion, training, pay, redundancy, or dismissal decisions, you can do something about it.

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