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Discrimination in Job Adverts


All businesses should have policies & procedures in place in line with the “Equalities Act 2010” to help prevent discrimination in the workplace. However, it is not widely known that this is also applicable to potential employees when applying for a new role; in fact the legislation covers the whole recruitment process.

As a general guideline, it is unlawful to discriminate against anyone, whether classed as an employee or a candidate in the recruitment process, based on the following nine protected characteristics:

  • gender
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • disability
  • age
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • sexual orientation
  • gender reassignment

Recognising Discrimination
Discrimination falls into 2 categories; Direct & Indirect. Both of which can come up when writing a job advert.

Direct Discrimination

Direct discrimination is where a job advert will point out that the employer only wants a certain type of applicant to apply and excluding other candidates from applying for the vacancy on the basis of their sex, race, age or disability. For example, a job advert asking for male applicants only for a building/labouring job would be direct discrimination.

Indirect Discrimination

Indirect discrimination within a job advert occurs when an employer sets certain criteria of the job that puts a certain group of people at a disadvantage over another, completely blocking them from applying for the roles. Unless there is a genuine reason that you can justify the criteria then it could be unlawful and seen as discrimination.

For example, a job advert that dictates applicants must be clean shaven could stop members of certain religious groups from applying. However, if this is fully justified by stating that it could be a hygiene risk if the role entails handling food or working in a clean room environment, then this would then be lawful.

Genuine occupational requirement (GOQ)

A genuine occupational requirement comes into play when the nature of a particular job causes the sex or gender of an applicant to become a reasonable cause for choosing one applicant over another.

For example, a job role that requires levels of authenticity such as working in a Chinese restaurant or a position as Santa Claus can be restricted to applicants with personal attributes such as being male or female or being a part of a certain race.

It is important to remember that the exceptions are not always black & white; if you believe that you have a job role which may require a GOQ, we would recommend that you take professional advice.

Making your job adverts fair and lawful

It is always advised to double check your job advert before you post it anywhere; ensuring what you have written does not directly or indirectly discriminate.

The team at Field Recruitment have come up with our top 3 tips for making sure your job adverts don’t discriminate.

  • Avoid Words that may be construed as sexist or that indicate the job is only open to one sex, such as Postman, Salesman or Waitress.
  • Focus on the knowledge & experience a candidate needs to complete the tasks of the role, try to avoid stating desirable characteristics such as good sense of humour, dynamic or loyal, all of which could be construed as discriminatory.
  • Ensure that you can justify anything that may be construed as discriminatory in your job advert; the best example of this would be for a bar/pub role whereby you have to be over 18 serve to alcohol. It is not discriminatory to put in your job advert that applicants must be over the age of 18.

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