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I think I am being discriminated against at work because I am a woman.  What can I do?

There are laws against sex discrimination to protect both women and men. Discrimination can come from anywhere. It could be a colleague, department supervisor, your manager or your employer.

If you think you are being treated less favourably than a man, you should take action as quickly as possible. The first thing to do is to have a word with other colleagues to see if they are receiving similar treatment or if they have noticed your less favourable treatment. Find out if anyone is willing to stand by you. If you can, try to speak personally to the person discriminating against you and ask them to stop or warn them that you will complain officially. You should only do this if you feel it is safe. You may find it helpful to have a colleague or trade union representative with you when you do this.

You should tell your manager what is happening. Put it in writing and keep a copy. Your employer is required by law to protect you from sex discrimination. If it is your manager who is discriminating against you or harassing you, tell someone higher up in the organisation.

You should also collect evidence. This could include keeping a diary or record of the time, date and location of any incidents, what was said or done, who was involved, if there were any witnesses and evidence of any similar incidents against other colleagues. Record the names and jobs of those you think are treated more favourably than you, or details of the rule or policy that puts you at a disadvantage and why.

If things do not improve, talk to your union if you are a member or to your personnel department. They might be able to help you stop the discrimination.

If none of this helps, you may need to raise a written grievance with your employer. Although the law can help protect you, you should be aware that if you make a formal complaint, there is a risk of this making your life at work even more uncomfortable.

If this doesn't work, the final step could be to make a claim for sex discrimination to an Employment Tribunal. You may need to raise a written grievance with your employer first. There are strict time limits involved, so get advice early on.

You don't need to have worked for your employer for any particular length of time before you can make a claim for sex discrimination. If you have been dismissed, you may also be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal.

You will need to prove your case. This is why collecting evidence is so important. You can ask your employer to provide information through a questionnaire procedure. This can help to support your case. There are strict time limits involved and you will need to get advice to help you do this.

There is no upper limit to the amount of compensation you can be awarded by an employment tribunal in a sex discrimination case.

For more information about discrimination at work, see Basic rights at work.

For more information about procedures you must follow when you complain about discrimination at work, in England, Wales and Scotland see Sorting out problems at work and in Northern Ireland, see Dealing with grievances, dismissal and disciplinary action at work.

For more information about unfair dismissal because of discrimination, see Dismissal.

For more information about sex discrimination, see Taking action about sex discrimination.

In England, Wales and Scotland, see Sex discrimination and sexual harassment at work in Employment fact sheets.

If you think you've suffered sex discrimination at work, you should get advice from an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau. To search for details of your nearest CAB, including those that can give advice by e-mail, click on nearest CAB.

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