Sexism and discrimination in the workplace

In recent years sexism and discrimination have become a very topical issue and employers are becoming more and more exposed to discrimination claims. Over the last few days a job advertisement posted on Twitter has sparked large amounts of publicity. In an attempt to recruit a new roofer, an employer posted a tweet; ‘Looking for a young lad who wants a job. Roofing. In the Stansted area’. Since then the advertisement has received multiple negative responses and challenges due to it specifically asking for a male to undertake the role.

The outrage this has caused over the last couple of days is a healthy reminder to all employers of the need to be constantly aware of discrimination and demonstrates how easy it can be to make an “honest mistake” and what the consequences of this can be.

Discrimination in employment is prohibited and it starts as early as the job advertisement. There are some limited instances where a defence is available to an employer which they can raise in defence although none would apply to this case. These defences are known as occupational requirements. To use this defence, an employer must show that the nature of the job role is unsuitable for certain individuals due to their sex, age, sexual orientation, religion or belief. The employer has the burden of proving the need to discriminate and must show that the occupational requirement is a genuine and determining requirement of the job.

Acas has provided some guidelines on occupational requirements and although not of statutory force, these offer employees some practical guidance;

  1. Where there is an occupational requirement, employers should make this clear within the job advertisement;
  2. Employers should reassess the need for an occupational requirement each time a vacancy becomes available in that role;
  3. The occupational requirement should be essential to the post; and
  4. The occupational requirement should relate to the actual job itself.

As discrimination issues are becoming more and more common in the work place, it is important employers are aware of the law surrounding this area. If you need help with any aspects of discrimination please contact our specialist employment team, lead by Ed Jenneson or contact Ed on 01482 337341, email

Posted on: 31/08/2018

This article is for general guidance only. It provides useful information in a concise form. Action should not be taken without obtaining specific legal advice.

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