Diversity and Inclusion in Customer Services - Sex and Gender

In 2012, the European Commission ruled that insurers are prohibited from basing pricing on a customer’s sex. Customers cannot be charged more or less for insurance purely based on their sex, and risk assessments should be based on other factors, such as age or health.

Although sex and gender discrimination are unlawful in the pricing of insurance premiums, it can still sometimes happen in customer services. Insurance firms should ensure that their staff are well-informed and understand how to interact with customers without bias.

Both sex and gender reassignment are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, and as such, firms should be aware that it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their sex or how they identify.

Sex refers to the biological features of a person, such as anatomy, reproductive organs, and hormones. People can be assigned male, female, or intersex at birth. Gender refers to how an individual identifies and feels comfortable with. It is also defined as the socially constructed ideas about masculine and feminine behaviours and attributes.

To avoid discrimination when handling customer interactions, staff should be careful to not use stereotypes or make assumptions based on how someone appears. Here are some things firms may wish to consider:

Direct discrimination is when someone is treated less favourably than someone else in a similar situation and is left at a disadvantage. For example, setting stricter conditions when a woman applies for home insurance than when a man does. 

Indirect discrimination is when there is a policy or rule that applies to everyone in the same way but puts some groups at a disadvantage due to their circumstances. This can often be unintentional.

Harassment is when someone is made to feel offended, humiliated, degraded, or unsafe. This can be caused by sexist comments or asking invasive questions, for example, regarding a transgender customer’s birth sex.

Sexual harassment is when someone is humiliated and degraded in a sexual way. This includes physical actions, such as unwanted touching, and verbal comments, such as inappropriate jokes.

Victimisation is when someone is treated badly because they complained about discrimination against themselves or someone else. For example, a male customer being refused car insurance because he previously reported sex discrimination in the firm.

Firms should provide fair and equal service to all customers, regardless of their sex or gender identity. No one should have to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome when pursuing their financial objectives.

If you are a Development Zone user, you can find a range of courses on diversity and inclusion in the course catalogue. For those not currently using the system, you can find out more and request a free 14-day trial here: https://mydevelopment.zone/#getStarted.

About the author

Regine joined RWA between 2021-2023 having graduated from Loughborough University with a 2:1 in Graphic Communication and Illustration. As a Digital Content Assistant, Regine used their graphic design and illustration experience to create engaging e-learning modules. 

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