Jennifer Rowlinson | Trainee Solicitor

The Descent of Man? – Male Prejudice and Sex Discrimination

As the world continues to shift and respond to the powerful solidarity of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, gender norms evolve and re-align. Jackson Boyd proudly celebrated International Women’s Day and International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia as our society continues to break stereotypes.

As a result of these movements, further research is being conducted to discrimination – and, surprisingly, men are increasingly finding themselves to be new victims of sex discrimination.

Discrimination against men at work has been the subject of only limited research attention, though the proportion of men stating that they had experienced discrimination was one third of that of women. Men experience more discrimination that is commonly expected, with the number almost doubling between 2010 and 2015 in the UK.

As described in the Eurofound’s 2018 Report Discrimination against men at work: Experiences in five countries, researchers in the UK submitted pairs of diligently matched applications describing identical qualifications and experiences to advertised job vacancies, the only difference being the genders of the fictitious applicants. The statistics concluded there was significant discrimination against men found in the ‘female occupation’ (secretary) and against women in the ‘male occupation’ (engineer), while statistically significant and unexpected discrimination against men was found in two ‘mixed occupations’ (trainee chartered accountant and computer analyst programmer).

Furthermore, male applicants were up to four times more likely than women to suffer discrimination when seeking jobs in accountancy and computer programming.

This study concluded men to be new victims of sex discrimination at work, with professions once regarded as male strongholds now biased towards women.

This new wave is not bound to recruitment alone. A 2017 survey by BBC Radio 5 Live found that in 53% of women and 20% of men in the UK have at some point been sexually harassed at work or a place of study. Over a quarter of people surveyed suffered harassment via inappropriate jokes or ‘banter’, and nearly one in seven participants had suffered inappropriate touching, with 12% of men targeted by a boss or senior manager.

As previously written about in Jackson Boyd, the Equality Act 2010 protects employed individuals against sex discrimination, harassment and victimisation, including men. Unlike the majority of employment claims, a person does not need to be employed for two years in order to bring a discrimination against his employers.

To establish direct discrimination, a man must demonstrate that he has been treated by his employer in a less favourable manner than a real or hypothetical comparator (i.e. a member of the opposite sex whose circumstances are not materially different to theirs) because of his sex.

‘Because of’ their sex is an important aspect that was highlighted in Keller v Hertfordshire County Council, in which a male school caretaker was dismissed after disciplinary proceedings arose when a particularly vulnerable child twice initiated a hug with the caretaker. Evidence of prejudice against men at the school was found to influence the decision to instigate disciplinary proceedings and dismissal, when a hypothetical female caretaker would not have been dismissed in similar circumstances. The discrimination in this case was because of Mr Keller’s sex.

If there aren’t such distinctly different treatments of male and female employees in the workplace, employees need to be aware of possible indirect discrimination. Indirect sex discrimination occurs when an employer’s actions or practices inadvertently result in a particular disadvantage to persons of one sex rather than another that cannot be justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. These can be decisions regarding supervision, chaperoning, flex-working, and redundancy, the application of which has a disproportionate negative effect on group of people over another.

Jackson Boyd’s Employment Team deal with discrimination cases on a regular basis, so we are in a strong position to advise and assist you with your situation. To mitigate stress during difficult times and to provide you extra peace of mind, we offer a free initial consultation, so talk to a person who can help by calling us on 0330 029 1952 or contact us by e-mail.

Jennifer Rowlinson

Jennifer Rowlinson

Personal Injury Team

Jennifer is a trainee solicitor with Jackson Boyd. She commenced her traineeship with the firm in 2017.

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