How Can I Make Sure My Job Ad Doesn’t Discriminate?

This is no easy undertaking. In going the extra mile to appeal to one sector of society, you can unwittingly distance yourself from others. While it’s true that the primary aim of a job ad is to attract really strong candidates, there are rules and regulations that you must adhere to in order to ensure that your advert complies with discrimination law.

As with many areas of regulation, it can be left open to interpretation. There is no list of prohibited words or phrases to help you understand the do’s and don’ts of writing your ad, but it does require some extra thought on how to get it right.

It is critical to ensure that your job ad does not discriminate in terms of race, disability, sex or age. When creating your ad, it is important to consider the following two points in tandem:

  • Does your ad contain copy that ‘might reasonably be understood as indicating an intention to discriminate’?
  • How would an ‘ordinary, reasonable person with no special knowledge’ feel about the content of your advert?

In addition to the overall sentiment of your advert, it’s important to break it down into the groups listed above: race, disability, sex or age.

Working around the question of race

Racial discrimination is an area of great sensitivity, especially when your role may be actively seeking candidates with a certain racial profile. This can be critical when looking for linguistic skills or when recruiting for public organisations, such as the Police, who have to positively discriminate in order to achieve ethnic representation. In terms of language skills, ensure that you ask for candidates that speak the language, rather than those who simply have the correct nationality.

When it comes to encouraging candidates from certain ethnic groups to apply, it’s important to create your ad without discrimination but ensure that you place the advert in ways that this segment of society can easily access it.

Getting it right when it comes to disability

Empowering disabled people to take their rightful place in the workplace is important – from easily accessible offices to a job advert that promotes their opportunity to apply. This may mean that you have to revisit the job spec to ensure that the emphasis on physical activity is correctly balanced. Is it ‘essential’ to hold a clean driving licence or is that merely a mark of integrity? Is ‘heavy lifting’ part of the role or is it just ‘useful to have’.

Discrimination on the basis of gender
Encouraging candidates to apply on the basis of their gender is strictly forbidden within a job advert. Although there are situations where gender is crucial to the role, such as the Prison Service, you may never imply that one gender might bring benefits that another may not, for example, strength or the ability to nurture. Ensure that your job titles are, therefore, gender neutral.

Avoiding age discrimination

You may not include terms, such as ‘mature’. Setting experience levels will also cause issues, so ask instead for a demonstration of the attribute required.

How to deal with discriminatory adverts

When it comes to blame, the publisher is just as vulnerable as the author. It’s likely that there will be a checklist to help you through the publishing process to protect both parties. These are:

  • Direct discrimination – Job adverts that overtly state that they apply only to candidates who meet certain criteria and so exclude others because of their gender, race, age or disability.
  • Indirect discrimination – Criteria that make it impossible for certain groups to apply indirectly exclude them from recruitment process. If your ad really must do this, ensure you have a fully justifiable or you could be contravening the rules.

Before you post an advert or even issue a job description, we advise that you go through it carefully to ensure there is nothing in there that could land you in difficulties. You could always check it and if anything is seen even as even the smallest bit discriminatory, you could always replace it to be on the safe side.

Peter Forshaw – Managing Director, Maxwell Stephens

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