action taken for the purpose of assisting one sex to overcome: a disadvantage (as compared with the other sex) or the effects of discrimination.
In practice, however, there will only be very limited occasions when a public authority is likely to be justified in exercising s21A functions on a single-sex basis. These might include for example, central government determining policy to address a single-sex issue, such as making policy decisions on allocation of resources for single-sex prisons.
The employment implications of single-sex provision
S7 SDA (margin note)
If a public authority makes a judgement that there is a legal case for providing services to one sex only or providing services to each sex on a separate basis, it does not automatically follow that those services should be supplied only by staff of the same sex as the users. In certain cases, the SDA does allow the employment of staff of one sex only as a Genuine Occupational Qualification (GOQ). Cases decided by the courts have concluded, however, that those instances should be extremely limited. Even where an employer could apply a GOQ to a job, they are not obliged to do so.
The most common reason for restricting a job to one sex only is to preserve decency or privacy because the job is likely to involve physical contact or where men are in a state of undress or using sanitary facilities and might reasonably object to the job being carried out by a woman (or vice versa). It can also apply where the holder of the job provides individuals with personal services promoting welfare, education or similar personal services and those services can most effectively be provided by a man (or woman, as the case may be).
Jobs may also be restricted to one sex:
where a job is likely to involve working or living in a private home and a man might reasonably object to a female job holder (or vice versa) due to the degree of physical or social contact with, or knowledge of intimate details available to, the job holder
where, because of the nature or location of the establishment, it is impractical for the job holder to live elsewhere than in premises provided by the employer, and the only such premises available are lived in, or normally lived in, by men and are not equipped with separate sleeping accommodation for women and sanitary facilities which could be used by women in privacy (or vice versa), and it is not reasonable to expect the employer either to equip the premises with such accommodation and facilities or to provide other premises for women
where the nature of the place of work requires the job holder to be a man (or woman) because it is part of a hospital, prison or other establishment for men (or women) requiring special care, supervision or attention and it is reasonable having regard to the nature of the establishment that the job should not be held by a woman (or man)
where the essential nature of the job requires a man for reasons of physiology (excluding physical strength or stamina) or authenticity in dramatic performances or other entertainment and the essential nature of the job would be different if it were carried out by a woman (or vice versa)