An Employer’s Guide to Discrimination – Part 2

In Part 1 we focused on the different forms of discrimination and the various protected characteristics as defined in the Equality Act 2010.

In Part 2 we will focus on practical tips and guidance on avoiding costly discrimination claims and as usual, hopefully dispelling some commonly held myths along the way.

In the last article we highlighted the fact that an individual needn’t be an employee to bring a claim for discrimination- claims can be brought by candidates at recruitment stage. Here we’ll explore some of the common pitfalls related to recruitment which can land you in hot water.

Job descriptions and person specifications

I would never embark on a recruitment exercise without these documents. What are they?

  • job description is literally a description of the duties, roles and responsibilities.
  • person specification contains the requirements the candidate must have in order to carry out that role.

These documents used together make the process of recruitment easier and if used correctly will help you avoid discrimination claims because they keep you on track to ensure you are recruiting on merit.

Plus, they give candidates something to frame their applications around. Have them available on your website or ask candidates who are interested in the role to contact you so that they may be issued prior to the submission of their application.

We hold examples of job descriptions across many industries- take advice from our experts on this important first step.

Job advertisements

From the wording of job adverts to where they are placed, care needs to be taken.

Have the job description and the person specification in mind when wording an advert. Use the advert to attract the right candidate rather than using language which will actively ‘put off’ others.

For example, consider descriptions such as ‘energetic’, ‘lively’, ‘recent graduate’ etc. These words can imply you are seeking a younger applicant and may discourage older applicants from applying (not that we are suggesting these adjectives only apply to the young!).

Likewise, if the role requires x number years of experience, then state this in the advert but if its not essential you may be inadvertently discouraging younger applicants.

Also avoid jargon and useless buzzwords like ‘industry guru’; the job advert is there to give information about the role- not to confuse people. You will waste precious and costly advertising space and end up sifting through applications from unsuitable candidates.

Be mindful of gender-neutral descriptions. ‘Salesman’ or ‘Waitress’- imply applicants of a particular gender are being sort- this wording in an advert is enough for someone to bring a claim against you!

In terms of where they are placed, if you are advertising internally only then make sure all staff can see the advert. Don’t just email it to a select few and don’t forget staff on maternity leave or long-term sick!

Likewise, if you are advertising externally think carefully about where you are posting your advert. Are you advertising in a publication targeting a certain gender, religion or age group? You may be indirectly discriminating against certain groups.

As we touched upon in part 1, there are sometimes legitimate exceptions. However, don’t assume, seek advice from our experts.

Application screening

Most employers ask employees to submit CV’s. That is fine but from personal experience I find them quite time consuming to sift through because a CV is only going to contain information a candidate wants you to know and candidates use different layouts and so on.

An application form however forces candidates to fill in information you need and in the order you want it. They can be used with CV’s or on their own.

Just make sure your application forms are up-to-date. You should not be asking for dates of birth or medical history- more on this later. Please contact our experts who can provide you with application forms.

Interviews

Most people know that there are certain questions that ought not to be asked at an interview and most of those relate to family/pregnancy. For example, ‘any plans to start a family?’ ‘what arrangements do you have by way of childcare?’ etc.

The above questions are traditionally only put to females. If they were to answer in the affirmative to these types of questions and didn’t get the job…well, you will have a hard time justifying that this was not the reason they were turned down. A discrimination claim on the grounds of sex may be coming your way.

In part 1 we looked at protected characteristics under the Equality Act. As a rule, any questions relating to these areas should be avoided.

The best way to do this is to set your interview questions for all candidates and base those questions on the job description and person specification. You will need to vary those questions depending upon each candidate’s specific experience but be consistent.

Remember an interview is two-fold, it is for you to appoint the best candidate but it is also for the candidate to find out more about the role and the organisation, so they may make an informed decision as to whether the role is for them or not.

Interviewing candidates is often as nerve-wracking for the interviewer as it is for the candidate, especially if you are new to it.

I have seen instances where a company has the most robust policies in place but has fallen foul of the law due to inexperienced recruiters putting their foot in it. Employers must make sure that anyone responsible for any stage of recruitment is trained to do so. Our experts can help.

The golden rules to avoiding discrimination where recruitment is concerned are:

  • Always recruit on merit
  • Ensure those responsible for recruitment know what they are doing
  • Keep records of applications and interviews
  • Be consistent in your approach to finding the best candidate/s