Sex discrimination cases continue to cost businesses in the UK

Many firms in the UK are costing themselves large sums in Employment Tribunal Awards by breaking workplace discrimination rules, according to new figures.


Under the Equality Act 2010, it is against the law to discriminate against anyone due to sex, race, age, religion or disability. Despite this, more than 61,000 Employment Tribunal cases were raised in the year from 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015.


This is actually far lower than the 105,803 cases brought in 2013–2014, which research by Empire HR suggests is due to the introduction of significant upfront fees for workers looking to take cases to a tribunal.


It still represents a huge amount of potential awards however, and sex discrimination cases accounted for over half of all cases brought in 2014 -2015. The maximum awards for these types of cases also tended to be substantially higher than for other types of discrimination.


The maximum award for a sex discrimination case in 2014-2015 was £557,039. This compares to £239,913 for disability discrimination, £209,188 for race discrimination, £80,783 for sexual orientation discrimination, £28,428 for age discrimination and £1,080 for religious discrimination. The maximum awarded for the other main type of tribunal case, unfair dismissal, was £238,216.


The median award for sex discrimination was also higher than for other forms of discrimination, at £13,500 compared to £8,648 for disability discrimination, £8,025 for race discrimination, £7,500 for age discrimination and £6,000 for sexual orientation discrimination.


Some particularly high awards could have a disastrous effect on a business and even lower awards could leave a company on tight margins facing corporate insolvency. Those with financial concerns should seek advice at the first opportunity to find what solutions may exist for them.


Discrimination tribunals are avoidable however and all employers should ensure they follow applicable laws. This should include putting discrimination and harassment policies in place. Policies related to sex discrimination should be applied in a gender-neutral manner and Empire HR points out that they should work both ways. A male worker has as much right to take time to attend to a sick child as a female one, for example.


Promotion and training should be offered on an equal basis and no employment decision should be made on the basis of gender.


By Phil Smith


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