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I should say something about this, shouldn’t I? Protected charactistics

(51 Posts)
BlazeAway Tue 13-Feb-18 13:15:40

There’s a new template for society constitutions, and this is a compulsory clause.

“The Society believes that discrimination or harassment, direct or indirect, based on a person’s gender, age (except where it relates to licensing laws), race, skin colour, nationality, religious belief, socio-economic background, disability, HIV status, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, family situation, domestic responsibilities or any other irrelevant distinction, is detrimental to the society, the university and wider society, and will not be tolerated.”

Now, while I don’t mind them adding to the list of protected characteristics actually defined in law, it’s pretty poor that sex isn’t in there, isn’t it? Pregnancy and maternity and marital/civil partnership also aren’t there, but I suppose would fall under “family situation”.

If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t quite see why we need the clause to be so explicit - why not “that discrimination or harassment in any form, direct or indirect, is detrimental...”?

UpstartCrow Tue 13-Feb-18 13:19:10

Can you challenge it and offer your version?

MyBrilliantDisguise Tue 13-Feb-18 13:20:13

Sex should definitely be in there.

BlazeAway Tue 13-Feb-18 13:39:15

Ideally I’d like to say “thank you for the new template, it looks great. I was just a bit worried by... and wondered whether...”.

But there are other things in there that I really don’t like either!

BlazeAway Tue 13-Feb-18 13:41:03

It really should be there shouldn’t it? Nothing in there really covers it - gender isn’t the same.

catgirl1976 Tue 13-Feb-18 13:42:32

Yes, say something. Sex is a protected characteristic. 'Gender' isn't - they need to change it to 'gender reassignment' and add sex back in.

I'm sure you could frame your communication to be around protecting the organisation from what must be an oversight on their part and ensuring they are compliant with the EA

SuperLoudPoppingAction Tue 13-Feb-18 13:43:11

Could you ask why it isn't the protected characteristics listed in Equalities act?
That uses sex.
Fair enough to add a few extras - HIV status seems standard in unis.
' any other irrelevant distinction,' leaves you open to tedious arguments, surely

OlennasWimple Tue 13-Feb-18 13:48:51

It's odd that both "gender" and "gender reassignment" are in there and "sex" is not.

I'd refer to the Equalities Act and say that this should be the starting point for the list, even if other characteristics are added for good measure (I'm seeing HIV status on such lists more and more, for example)

Everyonematters Tue 13-Feb-18 14:15:29

Yes advice about the equalities act makes sense

BlazeAway Tue 13-Feb-18 14:15:50

I will do and will let you know their response.

The other stuff unfortunately I don’t think there’s any chance of them changing, even though I know the societies’ council wasn’t happy with some of the changes (members who aren’t matriculated at the university can no longer vote in AGMs or run for committee positions, societies and volunteering groups can’t apply for any legal status, for example charitable).

thebewilderness Tue 13-Feb-18 23:20:20


NothingTraLaLa Tue 13-Feb-18 23:26:00

Definitely worth pursuing. I had to review an equalities policy recently and noticed that "sex" had been replaced with "gender" throughout. Apparently it was like that in the template. I suggested that it be changed back on the grounds that sex, not gender, is the protected characteristic under the Act and it was done, no issue.

BlazeAway Mon 19-Feb-18 00:54:56

I’ve not heard anything, despite going in and seeing a deputy who said she’d pass it on, and sending a polite e-mail. I presume the other changes are so unpopular that they’re firefighting the e-mails regarding those.

I think this is important thought - especially since I found the Equality Policy, which again doesn’t include sex, but does at least have the others. Although “gender reassignment” has been replaced with the woolier “transgender status”.

“We are committed to the principle of equal opportunities in employment and are opposed to any form of less favourable treatment through direct or indirect discrimination accorded to employees or job applicants, on the grounds of age, disability, trans-gender status, gender, marital and civil partnership status, race, political or religion, belief, sexual orientation and a staff member being pregnant and or on maternity leave.”

I’ve drafted a more formal letter, and will actually take it in in person.

Everyonematters Mon 19-Feb-18 01:27:02

That's great Blaze thanks for doing this.

holycheeseplant Mon 19-Feb-18 07:44:28

Is it possible that who ever wrote it thinks that 'gender' means 'sex'?

I'd refer to the equalities act, comment that sexism is still a huge problem (eg pay gap), that the two words can mean very different things and suggest sex is added.

If they don't, question it relating to the act and that therefore sexism could be seen to be 'allowed' under this guidance.

holycheeseplant Mon 19-Feb-18 07:46:59

Sorry didn't see your last post; I'm noticing throwing the word 'sexism' or 'sexist' into things has more effect. Then you can highlight that they need to be explicit that sex can be discriminated against, as well as pregnancy, maternal rights etc.

Datun Mon 19-Feb-18 07:55:29

If they don't, question it relating to the act and that therefore sexism could be seen to be 'allowed' under this guidance.


They will be falling foul of the equalities law if they knowingly exclude sex when listing protected characteristics.

If sexism is challenged in court, and they have not written that protection into their policies, they will need to explain why.

You might ask them, if they are not including sex, have they done an impact assessment as to how people of the female sex, will somehow not be discriminated against? Because that is the question that will be asked.

They will have a really difficult time on their hands explaining on what basis they are excluding a legal protected characteristic.

They may have conflated gender with sex, which is easily remedied.

But I would absolutely challenge it.

Women being written out of the narrative, again. Ffs.

MaidOfStars Mon 19-Feb-18 08:35:09

‘Sex is a protected characteristic under EA2010. This specifically prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. Your new policy, which excludes sex, appears to be, at best, neutral regarding or, at worst, condoning discrimination on the basis of sex. This presents legal issues for you. Please revise. ‘

BlazeAway Tue 20-Feb-18 13:25:55

They’ve asked me to go in for a meeting so that’s good. In the meantime I’ve found that the safe space policy is the same.

So zero tolerance to those, but some tolerance to sexism?!

UpstartCrow Tue 20-Feb-18 15:50:26

Its blatant discrimination disguised as equality.

TheButterflyOfTheStorms Tue 20-Feb-18 15:54:21

I think 'sex' has been reduced to 'pregnancy and maternity'. Really fucking depressingly.

BlazeAway Tue 20-Feb-18 18:05:17

Can I ask for your help to come up with a good example that show the difference between sex and gender discrimination please?

I was hoping they’d just change it, but I’m slightly worried I’m going to be explained at that gender is just as good because it covers everything not already covered under family situation...

TheButterflyOfTheStorms Tue 20-Feb-18 18:23:47

The wage gap, periods and the attendant issues, sexual harassment.

Datun Tue 20-Feb-18 18:25:35

You can't identify as a not a woman. You will still get raped, whatever you identify. You will still need menstrual products, however you identify, statutory maternity leave, breastfeeding protocols, sanitary disposal units.

How can they apply equality law to the word family, when that is not a protected characteristic?!

Ask THEM define what they mean. Equality law says you have to do adhere to the protected characteristics. You can't just make them up.

If they can't provide evidence of an 'impact assessment', that is directly related to a protected characteristic, they are in breach of the law.

It could be in the form of discussion, with minutes, or a policy that they have written. But they have to provide evidence that they have thought about the impact on the protected characteristic of sex.

Have a read of the link below, which sets out the law. Get your ducks in a row and go armed with the specific questions.

Ouchbirthhurted Tue 20-Feb-18 18:40:25

This disappearing of sex from wording like this is interestingly widespread. Could anyone reading this who works for or volunteers at an organisation that has an equality policy doublecheck the wording? I would be interested to see a straw poll.

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