Is it lawful for an employer to refuse to employ me because of my sex?

It is unlawful for an employer to refuse you employment on the grounds of your sex, either directly or indirectly, by putting requirements in place which would be more difficult for you to comply with than a member of the opposite sex.

The only exception to this protection is where being male or female is an essential occupational requirement. This exception, known as the Genuine Occupational Requirement, is very narrowly interpreted and applies in specified circumstances, where:

  • the essential nature of the job calls for someone of a certain sex, e.g. a female model;
  • there are considerations of decency and privacy – for example, a carer in a private home where part of the work is of a personal nature; or
  • the work is concerned with the provision of personal or welfare services, and the recipients would identify better with a member of their own sex.
Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.