Sex discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably, or not given the same opportunities as a person of a different sex, because of their sex.

It also occurs when a rule or policy applies to everyone but disadvantages a person based on his or her sex and the policy is not reasonable.

Example: A female employee claimed she was paid less than male colleagues in equivalent roles because she was female. She also claimed she was offered less promotional, training and professional development opportunities than her male colleagues because she was female. This could be sex discrimination.

Example: It could be sex discrimination if a bank refused to approve a loan because the applicant was female.

The Sex Discrimination Act protects people against discrimination in many areas of public life including employment, education, getting or using services or renting or buying a house or unit. There are some limited exemptions.

The Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against a person on the basis of gender identity, intersex status, sexual orientation, marital or relationship status, family responsibilities, pregnancy or potential pregnancy or breastfeeding. It also prohibits sexual harassment in many areas of public life including all work-related activity.

In addition, the Act allows special measures, or ‘positive discrimination’, that improve equality of opportunity for people based on their sex.