New Year New Hires: Helping Employers Avoid Discrimination in Recruitment

26th January 2023

With the holiday season behind us, the start of the new year is often considered to be an optimal time to focus on recruitment. Whilst, understandably, the emphasis for businesses is on finding the best candidate for the role, care must be taken to ensure recruitment processes are robust and designed in such a way that the risk of inadvertent (or indeed deliberate) discrimination is avoided.

Possible pitfalls in recruitment processes

The recruitment process is fraught with the potential for unlawful discrimination. Here are some matters that employers should be mindful of:

  • Ensure the job title and job description are gender neutral (except where there is an occupational requirement), such as, using the job title “camera operator” rather than “cameraman”;
  • Consider whether there are any requirements in the job description that might indirectly discriminate against a particular group of applicants, for example, refer to actual skills and experience required for the role rather than require a candidate say to have 10 years experience;
  • Ensure the duties are not written on the assumption a person of a particular characteristic will undertake them, so, avoid words and phrases such as “energetic” or “ideal first job”, as these may be deemed discriminatory against older candidates;
  • Consider where a role is advertised so as not to exclude or limit applications from persons of a particular characteristic or grouping, for example, not only advertising the role in a publication that is typically marketed at one gender;
  • When interviewing, avoid asking questions about protected characteristics including whether an individual is married or has children;
  • Where particular qualifications are sought, if possible consider allowing for equivalent qualifications to be considered to ensure the widest possible recruitment pool;
  • Questions around health and disability should only be asked if there are necessary requirements of the job which cannot be met with reasonable adjustments, or to identify whether any reasonable adjustments are needed in respect of the recruitment process; and
  • When shortlisting, assess the suitability of a candidate against a range of objective criteria such as having a qualification in a relevant industry area, rather than any personal or subjective criteria such as whether you think their personality will be a good fit for the team.

What should employers look to do to avoid the risk of discriminating?

When considering how to avoid the risk of discrimination in recruitment processes, we recommend that employers:

  • Undertake an impact assessment to identify areas where there may be a risk of inadvertent discrimination occurring;
  • Ensure all decision-makers undertake regular and appropriate training;
  • Draw up a recruitment checklist;
  • Use objective criteria to measure candidates against;
  • Consider reasonable adjustments where needed; and
  • Put in place measures to root out bias, unconscious or otherwise, such as blind sifting applications and involving a diverse panel of decision makers.

Should you require any assistance with assessing your recruitment processes to mitigate the risks of unlawful discrimination or generally to ensure best practice implementation, please contact the co-head partners of our employment department, Ewan Keen and Tamara Ludlow.