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High Court rules Sex Discrimination Laws incompatible with EU Directive

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The High Court has today ruled, in judicial review proceedings brought by the EOC, that the government has failed to implement the European Equal Treatment Directive properly within the Employment Equality (Sex Discrimination) Regulations 2005 so as to protect the rights of women.

The key points are:

  • The definition of harassment in the regulations was too narrow, and did not reflect the broad protection in the Directive. For example, the regulations gave no apparent protection to women harassed by clients, even when their employer knows of the harassment and could take steps to prevent it but fails to do so.
  • Women's rights during maternity leave were also unclear as a result of the new regulations. Women and their employers did not know whether a woman was protected if she was not consulted about a change to her job while on maternity leave, or if she fell behind a queue for promotion because her time on additional maternity leave was excluded from length of service.

The court has ordered that the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has until midday, March 16th to inform the EOC and the court how the Government plans to remedy the situation.

NOTE: I have obtained the above information from an EOC press release and have not seen the actual judgment to check its accuracy.