Single-sex and separate services for men and women
A trader or service provider isn't allowed to discriminate against you because you're a woman or a man, or a transgender person. However, there are some exceptions under the Equality Act 2010.
When it's lawful to provide separate services for men and women
The Equality Act says it's lawful to provide separate services for men and women if:
- it's less effective to provide services to men and women together
- there's a good enough reason for providing separate services
What's a good enough reason
If a trader or service provider wants to restrict their services to one sex only or provide separate services for men and women, they need to show there is a good enough reason for doing this.
They might say they're restricting their services because of:
- health and safety
- the welfare of individuals
- running an efficient service
A trader or service provider might not have a good enough reason if there are less discriminatory ways of doing the same thing. They'd need to show the reason for discriminating against you is fairly balanced against the disadvantage you've suffered because of the discrimination.
If there's a disagreement about whether a reason is good enough, you'll have to take the trader or service provider to court.
When is it lawful to provide single-sex services
A service provider might provide single-sex services if they have a good enough reason, for example:
- only one sex needs the service - for example, post-natal classes for women
- it's a more effective way to provide the service - for example, a father's support group where men don't attend the parents' support group
- the services are of a type that you would object to someone of the opposite sex being there - for example, separate changing rooms or a service involving personal hygiene
- communal accommodation - for example, women only dormitories in a hostel
- the service involves a high degree of physical contact - for example, self-defence or judo classes
Transgender people and separate or single sex services
Transgender people mustn't be excluded from separate or single sex services provided to people of their acquired gender, unless there's a good enough reason. This can be the case whether or not they have a gender recognition certificate. A gender recognition certificate is a document which allows you to be legally recognised in your acquired gender.
An organisation sets up a separate refuge for women experiencing domestic violence. They say the need for them to protect the welfare of women who've experienced domestic violence is a good enough reason for not providing that service to transgender people.
Services that are provided to both men and women should be provided according to your acquired gender.
- What's meant by sex discrimination
- What are the different types of discrimination in goods and services?
- Taking action about discrimination in goods and services
You can find more information about your consumer rights in the consumer section:
Other useful information
Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)
If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.
Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at