by Laurie Anstis on May 10, 2011
The Apprentice starts again this evening. Usually for the first few episodes, the contestants are divided up on gender lines into two teams – men and women.
Is this permitted in the workplace? It looks like it might be sex discrimination.
Section 13(5) of the Equality Act 2010 specifically provides that segregation along racial lines is against the law. An individual can bring a race discrimination claim on the basis of segregation without the need to prove that the segregation itself disadvantages them. There is no similar provision dealing with segregation on the basis of gender.
The leading textbook, Harvey on Industrial Relations and Employment Law, says that “segregation linked to other protected characteristics [such as gender] may be direct discrimination. However, it is necessary to show that it amounts to less favourable treatment.”
This means that where the segregation is gender-based, a woman or a man would have to show that the segregation disadvantaged them. It is only in the context of racial segregation that a discrimination claim can be brought simply because there has been segregation, without the need to show that it leads to a disadvantage for one group or another.