Preventing Discrimination in Job Adverts

As employers I’m sure you are well aware of the procedures and rules that take place to avoid discrimination in the workplace. This also begins in the hiring process, and it is your role as recruiters to ensure that your job advert is free of any form of discrimination.

The legislation can be a somewhat difficult and blurry area to understand, especially as many employers are unaware of how the wording in their job advert can be seen as discriminatory. It is no wonder you may have heard a number of cases about businesses and companies faced with legal action over discrimination in their job advert, although what they had written may have been completely unintentional.
So how do you know if your job advert could be deemed as discriminatory? Well to sum it up, the test of what ‘might reasonably be understood as indicating an intention to discriminate’ is whether an ‘ordinary, reasonable person with no special knowledge’ would think the advertisement is discriminatory.

It is therefore up to you as employers to ensure you keep a close eye on the wording in your job advert, and to avoid making any mistakes that could then be seen as discriminatory on the grounds of sex, race, age or disability.
Read on to find out more information on what, and what not to include in your job ads.

Preventing Age discrimination

Do not give any indication of any specific age ranges that you are looking for in your job advert. The tricky problem here is it’s easy for employers to unintentionally do this by using words such as ‘youthful’, ‘mature’ and ‘dynamic’, where they have no idea that this could in fact imply a specific age range that applicants should fall into.

What’s more, asking for a number of years of experience could also land you in trouble, as it could be implying that you are discriminating against a younger person who would have not had the chance to have gained that amount of experience.

You can make simple changes to your job advert to avoid any discrimination by asking candidates of their abilities in completing tasks, as this will show it is not dependant on age, but rather how well they can perform the action.

You could also state the level of the job role itself within the company, for example ‘Junior Researcher’ or ‘Senior Web Designer’, as this refers to their position in the hierarchy in the company.

Preventing Sexual Discrimination

Sexual discrimination may occur if you show a preference to hire one sex over another in your job advert, this can include using gender specific words in your job title such as ‘handy man’ and ‘waitress’.

The only times it’s acceptable to request a specific sex is if there is a genuine occupational qualification that legitimately requires a particular sex. This can include single sex institutions such as hospitals and prisons, and this must be explicitly stated in the job advert.
Another exception is for reasons of authenticity, as the gender is a relevant part of the job, such as in drama and modelling.

Preventing Racial Discrimination

The regulations that apply to racial discrimination are similar to that of sex discrimination in that the only time it can be seen as acceptable is if there is a genuine occupational qualification to be of a certain race.

This could also apply for specific organisations to encourage people from certain ethnic groups to apply for a job or training because they are under-represented in the organisation, but this must meet the limited conditions for taking positive action, so make sure you double check on the legislation.

Language requirements for your job should be treated with caution as they could be seen as unlawful unless it’s completely justifiable, i.e. essential for the performance of the job. This is one of the most common areas where employers make the mistake of unintentional language discrimination.
If the requirement is that they speak the language of that country then you should state that they should converse in the language fluently rather than be from that country. For example, the job title should say ‘French speaking telemarketer’ rather than ‘French telemarketer’. The key thing to remember is you aren’t looking for a nationality, but a language skill or competence.

Preventing Disability Discrimination

You as employers need to ensure that your business provides an equal opportunity for disabled candidates to join your company as much as everyone else.

Make sure you avoid unnecessary requirements in your job advert that could be seen as discriminatory such as requesting that a driving licence is required for the job, when in fact, limited or no travelling is needed. If it’s a genuine occupational requirement then this will need to be justified, or adjusting the requirement to ‘willing to travel’ would make it acceptable. Also, avoid terms such as “energetic” and “active” if the role is largely an office based, sit down job, as this could deter some individuals from applying.

However, discrimination on the grounds of disability is permitted if the post is offered by a charity that benefits groups of disabled people for example.

Recognising Discrimination

Discrimination falls into two types of categories in which you need to keep a close eye on when writing your job advert:

•  Direct Discrimination – This is where job adverts explicitly state they only want to hear from certain applicants and therefore exclude others from applying for the role on the grounds of their sex, race, age or disability. For example, a job advert asking for male applicants only for a labouring job would be direct discrimination.

 • Indirect Discrimination – This is when you set certain criteria in a job advert that applies equally to everyone but will automatically disadvantage one group of people over another, making it impossible for them to apply. Unless you can genuinely justify a reason behind the criteria then it will be unlawful and seen as discrimination. For example, a job advert requiring that applicants must be clean shaven could put members of some religious groups at a disadvantage. However, if this is fully justified by stating that it could be a genuine hygiene risk if individuals handle food, then this criterion would then be lawful.

Making your job adverts fair and lawful

It is not just the individual who wrote the job advert who is held the blame for discrimination, but also the third party who publishes the advert; whether it is in a magazine, the newspaper or online through jobsites. If you post a job advert with us at Employment4Students, we will make sure to check through the advert to make sure all the regulations are abided to.

You should always make sure you double check what you have written in your job advert before you plan to post it to make sure nothing could be picked up upon as being either directly or indirectly discriminatory. Remember to look out for:

a) Words that may be construed as sexist or that indicate the job is only open to one sex, whether it direct (i.e. waitress, postman) or indirect.
b) Focus on the qualities an applicant needs to successfully complete job tasks, and when stating desirable characteristics of candidates avoid abstract words (i.e. dynamic and lively) which could be construed as discriminatory.
c) Make sure you fully justify anything that may be seen as discriminatory as necessary for the job role/ type (i.e. a Genuine Occupational Qualification applies).
d) Ensure when using words like “Junior” and “senior” that it is only used to describe their position in the organisations hierarchy, rather than implying that you expect them to be a young or more senior worker.
e) Double check that your selection criteria can be objectively justified, in particular criteria that could disproportionately exclude groups of people with certain characteristics.

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