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Employers Beware! How to avoid discrimination in job advertisements …

What is best practice when it comes to writing a job advert and trying to attract the very best possible candidates for a role?

There are some common pitfalls when advertising for potential, new staff, and it is important to ensure that employers do not fall foul of the Equality Act 2010 when advertising. Legally there is no set process to follow in terms of what can and cannot be put in to an advertisement, therefore an employer must be mindful as to whether a job advertisement could be perceived as discriminatory on the grounds of a protected characteristic (sex, race, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation, gender reassignment or age).

Employers should be aware of both directly discriminating against applicants and indirectly discriminating against applicants. Both are defined within the Equality Act 2010.

Direct discrimination occurs when an individual treats another individual less favourably than he would treat others due to one or more protected characteristic. Therefore, job adverts should not for example state that they only wish to receive applications from people who match a specific criterion, which would exclude others who do not match that description, i.e. a 25-year-old, Italian woman.

Indirect discrimination occurs when an organisation’s practices, policies or procedures have the effect of disadvantaging people who share certain protected characteristics. An example could be advertising a job where all applicants must have ten years’ experience in the field, thus a younger person could be well qualified, but not eligible for the job.

We have set out some useful tips on what to avoid below, which employers should consider when preparing a job description advertisement…

Avoiding sexual discrimination
An employer in most circumstances can not specify which gender can or cannot apply for a job.
There are certain roles where there is a genuine occupational need for an employee to be of a certain gender, such as within single sex institutions like hospitals and prisons. We would recommend that job titles are not gender specific for example ‘salesman’ or ‘waitress’, and alternative wording such as ‘salesperson’ or ‘waiting staff’ be used.

Avoiding age discrimination
Job descriptions should not stipulate specific age requirements, or upper or lower age limits. Employers should also be mindful of using vocabulary which could have age related connotations such as ‘youthful’, ‘mature’ or ‘energetic’. Such terms could be seen to be excluding individuals of certain ages.

Avoiding racial discrimination
In some ways this can be seen to follow the same principles as sex/gender discrimination, and again in some situations being of a certain race can be a genuine occupational requirement. If language skills are required for a particular role we would suggest that an advert should be appropriately worded as to not exclude certain races, i.e. if the job requires an applicant who can speak French the advert should not request French applicants but French speaking applicants.

Avoiding disability discrimination
It’s important for all businesses to ensure disabled candidates have as many opportunities to join their company as non-disabled applicants. This should be noted when preparing a job advertisement but also for the entire recruitment process, including making necessary adjustments for interviews such as having wheelchair access.

Ultimately, the choice of words used within a job advertisement is vitally important not only to attract the right candidates to a role, but also to ensure that certain prospective candidates are not deterred from applying in a manner which could be viewed to be discriminatory. Before you post your job advert, we suggest that you consider if the wording could be construed as either directly or indirectly discriminatory. Further, we would suggest that employers consider where they place job advertisements, for example online and/or in newspapers, as this could also be construed as potentially discriminating against certain individuals.

If you would like to discuss any of the above further with our legal team or HR specialists, please contact us on [email protected] or on 0161 478 3800.


Employers Beware! How to avoid discrimination in job advertisements …

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