Avoiding inadvertent discrimination in recruitment exercises
This guidance was last updated on
04 April 2013
- Job advertisements
- Job descriptions and selection criteria
- Setting age limits for job applicants
- Shortlisting and interviewing
- Graduate or trainee recruitment schemes
- Pre-employment health information
For academic appointments please ensure that the agreed equality statement is added concerning applications from women and black and minority ethnic candidates being welcome.
Care should be taken to avoid job qualifications or requirements which would have the effect of inhibiting applications from individuals possessing one or more protected characteristics, except where they are justifiable in terms of the job to be done.
For example, requiring a job applicant to have 10 years work experience may amount to unlawful indirect age discrimination against younger job applicants.
Job descriptions and selection criteria
Careful consideration should be given to ensuring that job descriptions and selection criteria do not directly or indirectly discriminate against potential applicants.
- Requesting a particular number of years of experience may rule out younger people who have the skills required but have not had the opportunity to demonstrate them over an extended period. Unless there is an objectively justifiable reason it is, therefore, advisable to replace length of experience criteria with a requirement for proven skills in that area.
- Requiring specific qualifications (such as GCSEs) may disadvantage people of different ages or nationalities, unless they can be justified in objective terms. Advertisements and further particulars of posts should therefore make it clear that equivalent alternative qualifications will be considered. Please contact your HR Business Partner for advice where it is felt that a specific qualification is required which would need to be objectively justified. Wherever possible, particularly in the case of appointments to the university support staff, consideration should be given as to whether particular qualifications are strictly necessary. It is preferable to focus instead on the competencies required in the post (for example 'proven skills of analytical thinking, innovation and problem solving').
- Consider whether it is operationally possible to offer a full-time post on a part-time basis: full-time only jobs may be considered to indirectly discriminate against women since they are more likely to have caring responsibilities, or discriminate against carers of disabled or older people by association.
- Language such as 'must hold a clean driving licence' or 'must be physically fit' may discriminate against disabled applicants. Consider alternatives, for example if the requirement to drive is infrequent, consider whether a disabled applicant could undertake these duties by public transport or taxi? Where a post has particular physical requirements, such as lifting, driving, patrolling, etc, such requirements should be clearly described, so as to enable disabled candidates to assess whether they would be able to meet the criteria, and whether adjustments might be possible.
Setting age limits for job applicants
In certain circumstances it may be justifiable to set an age limit for applicants. The specific employment objectives that might justify treating job applicants differently on grounds of their age include:
- Health and safety (i.e. a need to protect young workers as required by the Young Workers ' Directive 1999).
- Where there is a Genuine Occupational Requirement (GOR) for a person of a certain age or age group to carry out particular duties. It is not expected that university posts will usually be eligible for a GOR as such exemptions are very specific (for example, acting or modelling roles where a person of a certain age group is required or jobs for which there is a minimum age requirement such as working in a bar or driving). Departments and divisions should contact their HR Business Partner if it is thought that a GOR might apply.
Shortlisting and interviewing
Even where all age, health, disability, and other personal details are removed from applications, an applicant's employment and educational history may for example give a clear indication of his or her age and candidates may explicitly reveal information about protected characteristics.
Therefore, all those involved in shortlisting and interviewing must avoid making stereotypical assumptions about candidates on the basis of any protected characteristics. For example that:
- an older candidate may not be in touch with the latest thinking on a particular subject.
- a younger candidate would not have the skills-based competency to persuade and influence others.
- a candidate with health issues will be unable to undertake particular duties.
- gender, age or sexual orientation are indicators that a candidate is more or less likely to take family leave.
- a candidate with a disability, or of a particular age, racial background, gender or sexual orientation would not 'fit in' with the 'culture' of the work place.
- a foreign national candidate would be unable to get a work visa.
To avoid successful claims of unlawful discrimination interviewers should, wherever possible, avoid asking questions relating directly or indirectly to protected characteristics during interview, such as:
- How would you feel about managing older/younger people?
- Do you think you are mature enough to take on this level of responsibility?
- How would you juggle your family and work responsibilities?
Graduate or trainee recruitment schemesGraduate or trainee recruitment schemes directed towards a particular age group may unlawfully discriminate indirectly against persons of a particular age unless an age requirement can be objectively justified. Contact your HR Business Partner for advice if you are considering specifically recruiting graduates or offering traineeships.
Pre-employment health information
Employers must exercise care if they request any information about health (and therefore potentially about disability) before a job offer is made, except in relation to facilitating interview arrangements for disabled applicants. The pre-employment health questionnaire should only be used with applicants once a conditional offer of employment has been made.