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Discrimination during recruitment
Recruiting the right staff can be a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. You want to find that one person that ticks all the right boxes – skills, experience, personality, etc. And so these are the things that most recruiters tend to focus on during the full recruitment process, and rightly so!
However, the legalities of recruitment are often overlooked or ignored completely. More often than not, recruiters don’t consider the direct or indirect results of discrimination. One reason may be that there are so many different forms of discrimination that recruiters just aren’t aware of. These include the following protected characteristics:
- Gender reassignment
- Sexual orientation
- Religious believes
- Marital status/Civil partnership
There are some key processes that can be put in place to help you avoid potential discrimination claims during the recruitment process. It’s also important to bear in mind that someone does not have to be employed by you to raise a tribunal against you for discrimination during recruitment. It may be a rejected candidate that has a claim.
So here are our top tips for avoiding discrimination during recruitment:
- Don’t ask for any potentially discriminatory details on the application form;Stick to the information required to assess their suitability for the post based on experience, skills and qualifications.
- Don’t ask for any personal details during the interview; Please do not ask about any of the potential discrimination areas as listed above. Don’t ask about family plans or children, partners, place of birth, travel arrangements, age or anything that may be related to the above list.
- Only check ID documents after you have made the offer of employment; There is massive potential for a discrimination claim if you ask to check personal documentation (birth certificate, passport, etc) before the offer of employment is made. Legally, you have to check for the right to work in the UK and this should be done before the employment starts, but after the offer of employment has been made.
- If you require a medical questionnaire to be completed, ask for it after the offer of employment has been made; Most candidates will assess their own suitability to do the job that they have applied for. If you have offered employment to a person who you later discover has a disability, you may need to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate them. You cannot base a recruitment decision based on a candidates medical condition, obesity is also a disability.
- Ask consistent questions during the interview; Have a list of main questions prepared that relate only to the post and the candidates ability to carry out the role based on experience, skills, qualifications, etc. This will help you to have the same structure for each person you interview and reduce the potential for a discrimination claim.
- Use an interview scoring system to help assess candidates suitability; By applying a score of 1 to 5 for each answer given by the candidates, you will have a clear record to show who the best candidate is. Avoid personal scores or comments about appearance or characteristics.
The average award given to discrimination tribunal claimants during 2014-2015 was just under £7,500 with the highest awards being issued for sex discrimination. Bear in mind that on top of the discrimination award, employers may also be fined for injury to feelings, loss of earnings and tribunal fees. This all adds up to a very expensive recruitment error.
In the recent case of Lucia Pagliarone v Immuno Biotech, Ms Pagliarone was awarded £10,500 for sexism discrimination during her recruitment. Click here to read the full case.
Recruitment processes don’t just apply to external candidates. You must also consider the process for internal recruitment to avoid claims such asRonnie Lungu v Wiltshire Police. You can click here to read the details of this internal discrimination during recruitment case.
You can't do that!
If only I had a pound for every time someone has said "you can't do that" to me, I would be a very rich woman today!
It's common that when staff think they can get away with things, they may be a little bit upset when you start to lay down the law. This is even more common when you have policies and processes in place that just aren't being following by some department managers.
So how can you change that? Easily!
First of all, send the offending managers on refresher training to remind them of HR policies, why the exist and how to apply them. Then, simply remind all staff that there are policies in place that need to be applied consistently throughout the company. You can re-issue key policies or post a summary of them on the notice board with reference on where to access the full policy. Give it a couple of weeks to make sure that everyone has had enough time to review the policies ask any questions. Then start following the processes.
For example, if you want to crack down on multiple short-term absences, follow the process above then start having return to work meetings and stage 1 absence meetings with staff as required. When you tell them that you will be making a record of the meeting that will be kept on file and any further absences may lead to disciplinary action, you may well hear them say "you can't do that". This is when you politely remind them that you can in fact to that and you will if need be. Refer them to the policy for review and offer to answer any queries regarding the policy that they may have.
Remember, you have the right to manage your staff and it is important that all department managers follow the same processes and apply them consistently.