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Walter Everett and the Equality Act 

The equality 2010 protects you from discrimination throughout your recruitment and employment lifecycle. You are protected by law during the recruitment process from unfair treatment during the recruitment and selection process.

What is Unlawful Discrimination:

This means unfair treatment of an individual because of a particular protected characteristic.

The main types of discrimination are:

  • Direct discrimination – treating someone worse because of a specific trait they have. 

  • Indirect discrimination – implementing policies or rules that give rise to a negative impact on an individual because of one of those traits. 

  • Harassment – the intentional creation of a sustained hostile environment for an individual, specifically targeting one of those traits. Examples include telling jokes about an individual’s religion, belief or gender at interview making them feel uncomfortable or humiliated.

  • Victimisation – refusing to offer an internal role to someone who has previously made a complaint of discrimination against their employer.

The Equality Act not only covers discrimination relating to the individual in question; it can also relate to:

  • Discrimination by association – direct or indirect discrimination against someone who has an association with a person who has a protected characteristic, such as refusing to employ a person who is a carer for a disabled person.

  • Discrimination by perception – not employing someone you think has a particular religion because of their name, because you believe they will not fit in with the culture of the team


Protected characteristics

Considering candidates based on both essential and desirable criteria is acceptable within equality legislation, however, rejecting an applicant for any of the following reasons is discrimination:

  • Age

  • Disability

  • Gender/sex

  • Gender reassignment

  • Marriage and civil partnership

  • Pregnancy and maternity

  • Race

  • Religion and belief

  • Sexual orientation


If a company gives instructions to an employment or recruitment agency to discriminate this  is also unlawful.

Disability and recruitment guidelines:

The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for employers to ask about a candidate’s health or disability when considering whether to make an offer of employment to them.

Section 60 explicitly makes it unlawful to make enquiries as to health and attempts to prevent disability or health information being used to remove applicants without first giving them the opportunity to prove they have the skills for the role.

Although the Equality Act allows a potential employer to ask about disability in very limited circumstances:

  • In order to check the individual can participate in an assessment as part of the job selection process.

  • If it is necessary to carry out an intrinsic part of the job. Employers should give consideration if that part of the job can be assigned to another employee or changed as a reasonable adjustment.

  • If disability is a genuine occupational requirement of the job. For example, if an autism engagement worker position would need someone who is diagnosed with autism within the role.

The Equality Act places a duty on employers to make reasonable adjustments for disabled applicants at all stages of the recruitment process. This is so that barriers faced by the disability are removed and allow the individual to work and apply for jobs in the same way as someone who is able-bodied.


Positive Action

It may also be permissible to target recruitment towards under-represented or disadvantaged groups providing they are under-represented within the employer’s workforce. This is a form of ‘positive action’.

Ultimately, recruitment and selection decisions should be based on who is the best candidate for the job.

If there are two candidates with the same qualifications, experience, and skills, you can then make a decision based on positive action. For example, if one applicant is older than another and you want to increase diversity within a predominately younger team, you would be able to select the older applicant.


How to avoid discrimination in recruitment

Although discrimination is generally inadvertent, regardless of the intention of the employer in displaying bias or unfair treatment, anyone responsible for hiring within their organisation must proactively and consciously understand and avoid any biases that would discriminate against someone. The intention of the person does not matter.

The following can help to focus your recruitment activities and materials on the selection criteria and to help coach recruiters to avoid unconscious bias or unfair treatment.


Review person specifications

By reviewing the person specification and job description, you can ensure it is free from bias. Try to remove all unnecessary requirements that act as job filters or narrow down the job pool. A good starting point is to be objective when describing the necessary skills or experience required to do the job and take care that any language being used does not carry any loaded or gendered terms.


Stay skills-focused

Outlining skills and using them as a framework to assess every application ensures all candidates will be dealt with in the same way. Arguably, it should also help you to avoid possible discrimination when drafting advertisements for job vacancies.


Review recruitment images

Use employment images and text from a wide range of backgrounds which will appeal to a broader pool of applicants. Research has identified that minority groups are more likely to respond to adverts reflecting their social identity. Also, try considering opening up to different platforms where your adverts are placed.


Set diversity targets with us

Share your policies with us  commitment to diversity and equality, and that this must extend to their service and how they meet your recruitment needs.


Remove bias within selection tests

Ensure any psychometric tests used are free from bias and any case studies do not favour any particular group.


Be aware of the ‘halo effect’ and the ‘horns effect’

The halo effect operates unconsciously and allows candidates to pass through a ‘favourable filter’. This works by the interviewer sending unconscious signals about who they are and what they think to the candidate. The horns effect operates in the opposite way, meaning previous negative experiences of an individual or group can mean applicants are viewed negatively.

Train assessors and recruiters

Raise awareness among your internal recruiters of sources of discrimination such as language and unconscious bias and how it affects decision making can have a positive effect on recruitment processes.


Provide clear assessment criteria

Bias can flourish when assessment criteria is unclear. This is because people start to use intuition to make decisions. Assessment criteria should be clearly constructed and give credence to the factual evidence that needs to show the candidate has met the criteria.


Sift blind

Removing names, age, gender, and similar information from CV’s that could trigger bias allows interviewers to focus on the skills, experience, and knowledge of the candidates.


Challenge interviewers

It is good practice to have more than one interviewer at all stages of the selection process. Interviewers should be able to challenge one another on the relevance of the information used to support their decision making.


Challenge language

Both positive and negative language used about different groups can identify bias. For example, certain behaviour can be described positively in male groups as “assertive and focussed on success”. Whereas these can be described negatively when attributed to women, such as “pushy and self-interested.”


Staying skills-focused

Think about what essential criteria a person needs to do the job. This can include things like:

  • Fluency in a particular language

  • Level of education

  • Experience within the role itself, or relevant skills the role will require

  • The right to work in the UK

Depending on what the role entails, you can tailor the list accordingly. It will allow you to discount any individual who does not meet the criteria and therefore does not need to include within your shortlist.

You should also consider the role’s desirable criteria. These are factors that are not essential to the role but having them could help, such as:

  • Speaking an additional language (to at least conversational standard)

  • Certifications within the sector

  • Additional experience

  • Membership of a group or union that could give the candidate additional knowledge or skills.


Feedback for unsuccessful applicants

It is good practice to let candidates know the reasons you will not be making them an offer, particularly after an interview stage.

Providing you have exercised due diligence within your recruitment and selection processes, you will be able to show how your reasons relate to how the candidate measured up against the recruitment criteria. This may help the rejected candidate to come to terms with the result.

Overall, it is essential to remember that under the Equality Act, you must treat everyone with fairness, respect, and dignity. And in doing so, you will always be on the right path to minimise and eliminate discrimination in recruitment and selection within your business.

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