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Preventing Discrimination During Recruitment

It is against the law to treat someone less favourably than someone else because of a personal characteristic such as religion, sex, gender reassignment or age.

Discrimination can include:

  • not hiring someone
  • selecting a particular person for redundancy
  • paying someone less than another worker without good reason

You can discriminate against someone even if you do not intend to. For example, you can discriminate indirectly by offering working conditions or rules that disadvantage one group of people more than another.

What is discrimination?

Discrimination is the unfair and unequal treatment of an individual because of a particular protected characteristic, and in terms of recruitment it occurs when an employer selects a candidate for any reason other than their qualifications and experience. 

There are three main types of discrimination:

  • Direct discrimination – treating someone worse because of a specific trait.
  • Indirect discrimination – implementing rules or policies that have a negative impact on someone because of one of those traits.
  • Harassment – intentionally creating a sustained hostile environment for someone, specifically targeting one of those traits.

Discrimination in job adverts

You must not state or imply in a job advert that you’ll discriminate against anyone. This includes saying that you are not able to cater for workers with a disability.

Only use phrases like ‘recent graduate’ or ‘highly experienced’ when these are actual requirements of the job. Otherwise you could discriminate against younger or older people who might not have had the opportunity to get qualifications.

Where you advertise might cause indirect discrimination – for example, advertising only in men’s magazines.

Questions you cannot ask when recruiting

You must not ask candidates about ‘protected characteristics’ or whether they:

  • are married, single or in a civil partnership
  • have children or plan to have children

Asking about health or disability

You can only ask about health or disability if:

  • there are necessary requirements of the job that cannot be met with reasonable adjustments
  • you’re finding out if someone needs help to take part in a selection test or interview
  • you’re using ‘positive action’ to recruit a disabled person

You might be breaking the law if any discrimination happens during their recruitment process, even if you use a recruitment agency.

Asking for a date of birth

You can only ask for someone’s date of birth on an application form if they must be a certain age to do the job, for example selling alcohol.

You can ask someone their date of birth on a separate equality monitoring form. You should not let the person selecting or interviewing candidates see this form.

Spent criminal convictions

Applicants do not have to tell you about criminal convictions that are spent. You must treat the applicant as if the conviction has not happened, and cannot refuse to employ the person because of their conviction.

There are some areas of employment that are exempt from this rule, for example schools.

Trade union membership

You must not use membership of a trade union as a factor in deciding whether to employ someone. This includes:

  • not employing someone because they’re a member of a trade union
  • insisting someone joins a trade union before you’ll employ them

Employing people with protected characteristics

You can choose a candidate who has a protected characteristic over one who does not if they’re both suitable for the job and you think that people with that characteristic:

  • are underrepresented in the workforce, profession or industry
  • suffer a disadvantage connected to that characteristic (for example people from a certain ethnic group are not often given jobs in your sector)

You can only do this if you’re trying to address the under-representation or disadvantage for that particular characteristic. You must make decisions on a case by case basis and not because of a certain policy.

You cannot choose a candidate who is not as suitable for the job just because they have a protected characteristic.

Favouring disabled candidates

When a disabled person and a non-disabled person both meet the job requirements, you can treat the disabled person more favourably.

Building a Diverse Community of Apprentices – For Apprentices by Apprentices, the BAME Apprentice Network is a Community of Black, Asian, Minority, Ethnic (BAME) Apprentices which aims to change the landscape of apprenticeships, empowering apprentices to develop personally and professionally, as well as championing change within the sector.

The BAME Apprentice Network not only acts as an aid for apprentices but also supports employers on their journey to making a meaningful difference to their Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion policy. BAME Apprentice Network is overseen by two very important committees, an executive committee and an apprentice committee that meet regularly to discuss issues and make decisions on delivering our objectives.

As part of our commitment to make a difference and change the landscape of apprentices, we’re working with the BAME Apprentice Network and calling on employers and learning providers to pledge their allegiance to the BAME Apprentice Network by joining as members.

The Diversity Pledge aims to support employers in making a difference in the lives of individuals of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds in starting sustainable careers. We will support employers with outreach programmes, recruitment through our events and jobs board as well how to work with their BAME workforce internally to improve progression practices.