Companies using only online applications may be guilty of age discrimination by excluding those unable to access the internet

Companies who hire staff using only online application forms could be found guilty of age discrimination as they are excluding certain age groups unable to access the internet, a law firm has warned.

Many companies now use standardised web-based forms when recruiting to cut costs and reduce paperwork. Companies are also doing this to avoid the legal repercussions of candidates claiming age discrimination if they have stated their age on a CV and have not been put forward for an interview.

But law firm Wedlake Bell said this could backfire if the application forms are only accessible online as it precludes older age groups who may not have access to the internet or are not computer-literate.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that in 2006, 55% of people aged 50 or over in the UK had not used a computer in the previous three months (compared to 13% of 16- to 30-year-olds).

Other figures show that only 61% of households currently have internet access.

David Israel, partner in the employment division at Wedlake Bell, said: “Companies who give job applicants the sole option of applying for a position through a standardised online form could find themselves challenged in a tribunal for being ageist.

“Companies should always offer, for example, to post application forms to people who are unable to download them.”

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