Diversity Guide – Sex and Gender

Under the Equality Act 2010:

  • The Protected Characteristic of Sex means: A man or a woman (biological/physical sex appearance). The term ‘gender’ means the social/psychological identity of being male or female, or non-binary. Gender identity and sex definitions also include non-binary (neither or both male and female gender identity) and intersex (dual or ambiguous sex appearance), however these are not currently or specifically covered by the Equality Act.
  • The Protected Characteristic of Gender Reassignment means: A person who is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone gender reassignment (the process of changing physiological or other attributes of sex and the gender identity assigned at birth, therefore changing from male to female, or female to male to match their true gender identity). People who have undergone or are undergoing gender reassignment may identify as transgender or formerly transgender, or they may choose to identify in just their gender (male, female or non-binary). Further protections to ensure people are recognised (‘from birth’) in their true gender, and knowledge of reassignment is confidential, are in place under the Gender Recognition Act. Cisgender is a term to describe people whose gender identity matches their assigned sex of male or female. Further information is available in the LGBT Toolkit.
  • The Protected Characteristic of Marriage and Civil Partnership covers people who are married or in a civil partnership but is limited to employment (‘work’) only.
  • The Protected Characteristic of Pregnancy and Maternity is as follows: Maternity refers to the period of 26 weeks after the birth (including still births), which reflects the period of a woman’s Ordinary Maternity Leave entitlement in the employment context. In employment, it also covers (where eligible) the period up to the end of her Additional Maternity Leave. It is unlawful to treat a woman unfavourably (e.g. asking her to leave) because she is breastfeeding.

Although the Equality Act does not specifically mention people who identify as non-binary (their gender identity or expression is neither or both male and/or female) or intersex (their sex is ambiguous or both male and female) it would be advisable to include considerations for non-binary and intersex people in practice.

Those most at risk of prejudice and discrimination are women (who are often parents/carers of young children and older dependants), men with caring responsibilities and people undergoing or who have undergone gender reassignment. When there is an imbalance of men or women, the minority gender may be disadvantaged. Male disadvantage is often as a result of negative attitudes/stereotypes towards women (for example, a belief that certain roles such as caring are for women and are of less importance/value).

Care should be taken not to reinforce gender stereotypes in the workplace.

Managers must support staff undergoing gender-reassignment so they are able to work in a safe and positive environment and follow the guidance provided by Human Resources.

Flexible working can help staff balance their lives inside and outside of work. Where necessary, managers should support both male and female staff in making choices about their parenting, caring and work roles.

Male and female staff will be paid the same for doing work of equal value and a job evaluation system is in use.

A positive attitude towards the rights of breastfeeding mothers (including staff, Councillors, colleagues and members of the public) is necessary and, under the Equality Act 2010, mothers must not be prevented from breastfeeding in public areas unless there are objective and reasonable grounds for doing so (i.e. health and safety). This means mothers must not be asked to cover up or move to a private space, and must be treated with dignity and respect. It is unacceptable to expect a mother to breastfeed or express milk in toilet facilities. Mothers should also be provided with a private space to breastfeed or express milk (with access to a refrigerator) if this is their preferred option, where such facilities are available. Find out more under our Breastfeeding Statement.

Some other gender considerations include:

  • Biological differences that may affect how a service needs to be provided. For example, men and women’s health screening for certain cancers is different.
  • The need for privacy. For example, separate changing facilities or sensitivity when carrying out physical contact – if a woman would reasonably object to the presence of a man and visa-versa.
  • Sensitivity and confidentiality if someone is under-going gender re-assignment or has undergone gender reassignment.
  • Access to gender-neutral facilities such as toilets and changing rooms (helpful for transgender, non-binary and intersex people) and use of gender-neutral language.
  • Body shape and typical style and preferences such as dress. For example, uniforms are available in styles that suit a female form as well as a male form, but people are able to choose freely which style they wish to wear.
  • Parenting/caring responsibilities, which may be different due to the age of children or size of family unit. The majority of caring is carried out by women. If men are caring they may have additional issues of isolation. Single parents – issues may be different for lone mothers and lone fathers.
  • Marital/Civil Partnership status. For example, refer to ‘spouse or partner’.
  • Provision for expectant or new mothers (e.g. being able to breastfeed in public, health and safety considerations, rest and changing rooms).
  • In households with one car, women are less likely to have access to the family car.
  • Personal safety and fear of crime – women have a greater fear of crime because of the nature of crime towards women (such as sexual assault and rape). This could, for example, restrict a woman’s ability to get out and about.
  • Dominance – Is the provision of facilities and services overall balanced and catering for women’s and men’s needs? For example, more cyclists are male and more horse-riders are female, but is the provision of cycle routes and bridleways proportionate and fair? Women need more toilet cubicles than men – how do toilet queues compare between men and women?

Sex and Gender Equality Checklist

  • Whether single-sex or gender neutral provision is required. For example, a women’s support group for victims of domestic violence, availability of gender neutral toilets. Gender segregation only takes place where there is a need.
  • Are staff who deal with records aware of the protections offered under the Gender Recognition Act?
  • Do uniforms and dress codes take into account gender needs (and likewise offer flexibility for gender neutrality where needed)?
  • Are the needs of carers and mothers who are breastfeeding taken into account?
  • Is language or imagery in communications appropriate? Does it reflect diversity and reduce stereotyping of men and women. Is it gender neutral where gender is not a factor?
  • Whether men, women and transgendered people have equal access to the service or benefits? What evidence do you have?
  • Whether there are any barriers to participation e.g. low numbers compared to the population? What evidence do you have and what can you do to mitigate those barriers?
  • Gender pay gaps – does the employer seek to address a pay gap? Will it take into account that women earn less on average than men?
  • Is the ability to access a car taken into account?
  • Other factors that are relevant to your service:

…what improvements can you make to any issues identified?