Discrimination on the grounds of sex/sexual orientation

Discrimination on the grounds of sex/sexual orientation

This is governed by the Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976 and the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 respectively and aims to prevent unlawful discrimination/less favourable treatment on the grounds of sex/sexual orientation.


As with other forms of discrimination, this can be direct, indirect, victimisation or harassment.

Sex discrimination can include less favourable treatment on grounds of marital/civil partner status, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity.

The employment provisions of the Order do not apply where being a woman or a man is a genuine occupational qualification for a job. For example, a woman or a man might be needed for a specific purpose such as a modelling or acting role. A woman might be needed to provide counselling services to female victims of domestic violence.

Employees who consider that they have been discriminated against on the grounds of their sex/sexual orientation may consider issuing a Statutory Questionnaire.  This provides the employee with an opportunity to gather evidence from the employer prior to commencing proceedings. 



As with other forms of discrimination, there is a strict three-month time limit for lodging a Tribunal claim for discrimination on the ground of sex/sexual orientation.

Discrepancies in pay between a man and a women are not dealt with by the Sex discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976, but instead are contained in a separate piece of legislation: the Equal Pay Act (NI) 1970 gives a person the right to be treated equally in terms of pay in comparison to a member of the opposite sex. The people who are being compared must be working in the same place or working at different establishments for the same employer. An employee who believes they are being discriminated against would have to show that they are employed: -

  • in ‘like work’, that is, work that is the same or broadly similar; or
  • in work which has been rated as equivalent under a job evaluation study; or
  • in work which is of equal value in terms of, for example, effort, skill and decision making.

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