We’re asked a variety of questions surrounding Men’s Sheds and women on a regular basis. Can women go to Men’s Sheds? Isn’t a Men’s Shed discriminatory? Are we really allowed a place just for men?
Answers to these, and other such related questions are determined by the Equality Act.
The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination in the workplace and in wider society.
The name and operation of Men’s Sheds indicate that they are directed to helping men. The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against anyone because of a ‘protected characteristic’ (which includes age and sex) in a wide range of areas including employment and the provision of public services. There are some exceptions to this, including the Charities’ Exception.
The Charities’ Exception allows a charity to limit its benefits to people who share a protected characteristic. By default, this may exclude people with other protected characteristics. It is allowed if both of the following apply:
- the charity’s governing document only allows people who share a protected characteristic to benefit
- the restriction can be justified using either of the tests described in the Commission’s Equality Act Guidance here.
Where a Men’s Shed is a charity, and wants to provide its services exclusively to men, the trustees will need to demonstrate that the restriction is justified in:
- tackling disadvantage; or
- in achieving some other legitimate aim
If a Men’s Shed wants to openly promote itself to include women, it could consider a less misleading name e.g. Community Shed, or they could use their geographical location with the word ‘Shed’ and drop the word Men.
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