This week is National Inclusion Week, an annual event that encourages companies to be inclusive and embrace the benefits of a diverse workforce. A diverse, inclusive work culture helps your employees feel comfortable, safe, being themselves, and working in a way that both suits them and meets your business or service needs. This type of workplace is important because a wealth of experience and perspective drives innovation, development and engagement. There are many things you can do to make your workplace more inclusive, and an important place to start is to take a good look at your hiring process, including how to avoid hiring discrimination.
To avoid discrimination when hiring, you need to know the following:
- How to write a non-discriminatory job advertisement;
- What “protected characteristics” are;
- Diversity and equality monitoring during recruitment; and
- Differences between internal and external setting.
Write a job advertisement
How you write a job ad is largely up to you, but you need to make sure you include enough information to attract the right candidates. They should contain at least the following:
- Job title, name of organization and the main aspects of the role such as location and type of contract;
- Information on how applicants should apply and when the application period ends; and
Also consider including:
- A job description for the role (see Job Description – Junior Manager or Job Description – Manager for a template);
- a personal statement;
- Information about your company’s ethos and workplace culture; and
- Salary and benefits information.
You may not state that your position is only open to candidates who may or may not be union members or discriminate against candidates on the basis of “protected characteristics”. Below is a guide to what this is and examples of the type of common expressions used in job advertisements that can be discriminatory.
Knowledge of “protected characteristics”
Having a “protected characteristic” means that you have the right not to be treated less favorably or to be unfairly disadvantaged because of that characteristic. To avoid discrimination when hiring, you need to know the current list of protected characteristics:
- Gender transformation;
- marriage and civil partnership;
- pregnancy and maternity;
- religion or belief; and
- gender or sexual orientation.
When writing a job advertisement, keep the following in mind to avoid discrimination when hiring:
- The job description should not state that it is a specific task if in practice that task is not part of the job role. For example, a job description that says “regular Sunday work” might deter Christians who do not want to work on Sundays from applying. If in reality Sunday work is required only occasionally, you could be discriminating indirectly.
- Avoid using terms like “dinner lady” or “young candidate” as these could indicate that you are selecting your employee based on gender and/or age.
- If a task could be performed in more than one way, avoid specifying a specific method as this could discriminate against people who could perform the function but not in that specific way. Remember, you have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the needs of disabled employees.
- The Equal Opportunities and Human Rights Commission advises not to disclose working hours or work patterns that are not necessary. A job description that calls for a full-time job when it could actually be part-time could discriminate against women who need more flexibility due to childcare responsibilities.
- Don’t over-describe what skills or qualifications are required. People from abroad are unlikely to have UK qualifications and older candidates are unlikely to have modern qualifications. Help avoid this problem by making it clear that you accept equivalent qualifications.
- Unless objectively justified for the job, you must not state any health, fitness or other physical requirements as this could constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities or other applicants with protected characteristics. Except in very limited cases, it is unlawful to ask an applicant about their disability or medical condition before they have been offered a job.
- You may only state certain characteristics if you have a legitimate and reasonable professional need to do so. If you intend to include one of the protected characteristics in your job advertisement, you must be careful and, if in doubt, seek legal advice. Our Ask a Lawyer service takes you to a specialist lawyer in just a few steps.
If ethnic minorities are underrepresented in your workforce, you can indicate that you strongly welcome applications from ethnic minority candidates (but not to the exclusion of other candidates) as a voluntary affirmative action.
Diversity and equality monitoring during recruitment
You don’t have to monitor diversity and equality in hiring, but many companies choose to do so. You can use an Equality and Diversity Monitoring Form to get an idea of who is applying to your organization and to check for equal opportunities in your company.
To ensure anonymity, your equality and diversity monitoring form should be sent to applicants (not attached to your application form, but sent separately, e.g. by email when a job application is received). Avoid asking for details that could easily identify a particular candidate. For more information on using these form types, see our Questions and Answers.
How to avoid discrimination when hiring: Internal and external advertising
To avoid discrimination when hiring, you need to think about where you want to post your job, be it just internally within your company or open up the hiring process to external applicants as well. It is usually advisable to do both.
Internal promotion is beneficial because it is less expensive than external promotion and is likely to boost staff morale if good opportunities are offered to existing employees. When advertising internally, you should:
- do so openly so everyone in your organization has a chance to apply;
- ensure that absent employees (including those on maternity leave or sick leave) are informed of vacancies; and
- Note that temporary workers have the same opportunities to find permanent employment in your company as other employees.
However, if you limit your recruiting methods solely to internal postings, you limit the pool of potential candidates. This in turn can lead to discrimination and a lack of diversity. Therefore, it is generally important to advertise broadly so that you can select employees from a broader and more diverse pool.
advertising to the outside world
When you advertise externally, you need to consider how best to reach potential applicants for your company. The following methods each have advantages and disadvantages:
- Internet (online job boards, professional networking sites, social media) and print media (like the jobs section of a newspaper)
- Relatively cheap, but the choice of where to post a job can affect the caliber of candidates attracted.
- word of mouth (like a recommendation system with existing employees)
- This can attract high-quality candidates who may be a good fit for the company, but carries the risk of discrimination as you limit your search to the family, friends and acquaintances of your current employees.
- recruitment agencies
- Expensive but may be best suited when the role is particularly important and finding the right candidate is a priority.
To avoid the risk of age discrimination by only using external channels that target specific age groups, ACAS recommends promoting a role through at least two different channels.
The content of this article is current at the time of publication. The information provided is for informational purposes only and not legal advice. © Sparqa Limited 2022. All rights reserved.