In 2021, equality in the workplace should be a given, but how can you be sure you’re being treated equally and what should you do if you believe you’re not? Employment Solicitor, Tina Maxey, discusses equality and discrimination in the workplace:

What is classed as gender discrimination in the workplace?

Gender discrimination can take different forms, however, generally it is where an employee, worker or job applicant is treated differently or less favourably because of their sex or gender, rather than on the basis of their individual skills or capabilities.

I think I am suffering sex discrimination at work. What can I do?

You can raise the matter informally to see whether the issue can be resolved, or if you do not think this will work or the issue is too serious you can raise a formal written grievance. You might want to ask a colleague or family member to help you with this. If your concerns are not resolved or you do not think they will be resolved you might want to seek specialist legal advice. There are very short limitation periods to bring employment tribunal claims, generally three months (minus a day) from the act of discrimination.

Can my employer make me redundant whilst on maternity leave?

Potentially, if there is a genuine redundancy situation. This could be where you are in stand-alone role and your employer no longer requires that role to be carried out or where your employer requires less people to do work of a particular kind. In the latter circumstances, your employer will need to carry out a fair selection process, ensuring that you are not disadvantaged because of your maternity leave, for example if one criterion for selection is absence record, your employer would need to disregard any time you have been absent from work whilst on maternity leave or any sickness periods which were related to your pregnancy. If there is a genuine redundancy your employer will need consider whether there are any suitable alternative roles that it can offer you. If there are no alternative roles, you can be made redundant during your maternity leave, provided the reason for the redundancy is unconnected with your pregnancy or maternity leave and a fair redundancy process has been carried out.

Can my employer insist I return to the office if lockdown childcare commitments make this impossible?

This would depend on your particular circumstances. Currently the Government guidance is that employees should work from home where possible. If you are able to work from home, your employer would need to take this into consideration. However, your employer would also need to consider whether it is possible for you to carry out your duties at home in conjunction with your childcare responsibilities. Those considerations would include whether it is viable for your duties to be carried out more flexibly, e.g. working different hours and reducing work targets. If you have younger children who require constant attention it may not be possible. However, you may be able to split childcare with another parent or a family member, so that you could at least continue working part-time. Whether this is feasible would depend on your role and the nature of the business. Your employer should talk you through the options. If there is any doubt, you might want to obtain specialist legal advice.

How can employers ensure they are acting lawfully and avoiding gender discrimination?

The first step would be for employer to have an Equal Opportunities Policy, although this in itself would not be enough. Employers should train managers and educate staff about gender bias and make sure that refresher training is undertaken. If there are any complaints of discrimination these should be dealt with in a timely manner and appropriate action taken. Employers should also offer equal pay for equal work and, where possible, flexible working.

How can Ellisons help?

We understand that things can sometimes go wrong with your job and your career and that if you are experiencing problems at work, this can cause uncertainty and be a stressful time. At Ellisons our specialist Employment Law Solicitors are able to offer you prompt and practical advice to help you resolve the issues as quickly as possible and on the right terms. Contact the Ellisons’ specialist Employment Law Solicitors today on 01473 556903 or 01206 764477 or email us at