Keeping the recruitment process discrimination-free
Regardless of size, it can be challenging for businesses to navigate the recruitment process. Many rely on performance standards to assess the suitability of candidates, and whilst they are undoubtedly a useful tool, they can also increase the chances of discrimination.
In 2010, the Equality Act was implemented, requiring all employers to avoid discrimination based on protected characteristics, such as age, sex, race, religion, disability and sexual orientation. Although the majority of people agree that this is a positive and necessary piece of legislation, businesses can still fall foul of it, even if accidentally.
Phil Pepper, our head of employment, explores the common mistakes that businesses make during the recruitment process:
Failing to differentiate between an essential job requirement and personal or commercial preferences is not unusual. For example, requesting that those who apply have a certain qualification would usually be acceptable, whereas asking applicants over 50 years old not to apply would class as unlawful discrimination.
Candidates should be chosen for their experience and skills, however, if two similar candidates come along, some employers will choose the most “inexpensive” option. This stops employees from being paid what they are worth, continuing the cycle of unequal pay, a high-profile issue around the world.
In the US, there are moves to ban employers from asking applicants about salary history and current earnings – a trend which could creep into UK hiring practices.
Failing to have formalised systems can risk the recruitment process becoming unfair and inconsistent. Businesses should look into introducing systems with inbuilt checking mechanisms to lessen the risk of unlawful discrimination. These can include a list of questions that are relevant to the role and apply to all candidates, or involving others in the process to reduce conscious or unconscious bias.
Without an awareness of the risks and consequences, employers will continue to find themselves being accused of discrimination. However, by implementing a flexible recruitment process where candidates are selected based on their skill, businesses will in turn improve their performance and culture.