Legislation Update: Discrimination in recruitment processes

Discrimination in recruitment processes

In a Tribunal case in Northern Ireland, it has been determined that to require “paid” work experience in a job vacancy specification rather than voluntary work experience was discriminatory against women.

The employer advertised for two neighbourhood regeneration officers, with a person specification "two years' relevant experience in a community development capacity (paid) gained within the last five years".

During a six-year break from paid work to look after children, the complainant was involved in extensive unpaid community development and neighbourhood regeneration work on a voluntary basis, and as a result was not shortlisted. A claim in the industrial tribunal on the ground that the requirement for relevant experience to have been paid discriminated indirectly against women.

The tribunal said it was settled law, backed up by statistics, that women are more likely to have caring responsibilities for family members and to take breaks from employment. A recruitment provision, criterion or practice that does not take this into account can therefore, unless it is a proportionate means of meeting a legitimate aim, be discriminatory.

The tribunal said the requirement for experience to have been paid was not appropriate and necessary to meet a legitimate aim, because relevant experience could have been obtained through voluntary work. A two-month induction for the new staff members could have covered any gaps in experience. A substantial amount was awarded for injury to feelings and loss of earnings and interest.

Employment law and best practice can be complex. First Practice Management offer a comprehensive on-site senior staff recruitment service, and advise on a full range of HR issues via the HR Advice Line.


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