Employers are flouting the law by asking recruitment agencies to screen out women of childbearing age, and it is up to agencies to stop the practice, according to the new head of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC).
Kevin Green admitted that recruiters were often asked by employers not to put forward women of childbearing age or those that were pregnant.
He was responding to comments made by Nicola Brewer, chief executive of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. She suggested that last year’s extension of maternity leave entitlement for all women to one year risked sabotaging their careers as some firms thought twice about employing them.
REC research in 2005 found that 78% of recruiters had been told by firms that they would prefer not to hire women likely to have children in the near future. The research also revealed that one in eight recruiters had bowed to pressure and discriminated against women when registering or putting applicants forward for jobs.
“There are always employers that will try and get round the law,” Green told Personnel Today. “The role of recruitment consultants and agencies is to uphold standards if they are asked that [by employers]. The recruiters that are REC members, I would expect to push that request back. The job of the agency is to say to employers: ‘you can’t select on this basis’.”
Government statistics show there are nearly 10 million women between 16 and 49 in the UK workforce, with 3.5 million aged between 25 and 34 – the most common age range for starting a family.
An REC spokeswoman added: “The bottom line is that an employer will be missing out on a massive talent pool if they fail to look at women of childbearing age.”
Green joined the REC as chief executive in June after a four-year stint as HR director at Royal Mail.