Employers must tighten up job advertisements

The
classified columns of The Lady, a genteel fixture in British publishing, have
been regarded for decades as the place to find a nanny or housekeeper.

But
under tight new anti-discrimination laws, an organisation or individual that
advertises exclusively in the 118-year-old magazine could find themselves being
sued for sex discrimination.

Another
casualty of a tranche of legislation from Europe is likely to be the ‘old boy
network’. Restricting recruitment to internal candidates could break the law.

Both
claims are made in a newly-revised book written by two employment law experts
and published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

In
Recruiting within the Law, Patricia Leighton and Giles Proctor warn that since
The Lady flags itself as "England’s oldest weekly magazine for
women", male job candidates could effectively be excluded. Advertising
jobs exclusively in male-orientated sporting magazines could also break the law
by putting women at a disadvantage.

"Although
the legislation isn’t in its final form, you don’t need a crystal ball to
foresee the possible outcomes," said Proctor, a university principal
lecturer in corporate and commercial law who is also a practising solicitor and
expert in employment and business law.

British
companies and organisations are facing several years of new anti-discrimination
legislation that originates in Europe and must be incorporated into UK law.
Sexual orientation, religion and belief and disability will become illegal
grounds for discrimination by 2006.

Direct
and indirect sex discrimination laws come into effect in 2005.

Proctor
and Leighton point out that the burden of proof of fair practice will shift to
employers. This will include ensuring jobs are advertised in media seen by both
sexes and by all races. Employers could also find themselves in trouble if they
ask for qualifications only available in the UK.

Leighton,
Professor of European Law at Glamorgan University and a specialist in
international and European employment law, said racial discrimination could
take many forms.

"Unless
an employer can justify asking for UK qualifications, or qualifications in the
English language, because they are vital to the job concerned, they shouldn’t
specify them," she said.

"And
if they pay interview expenses to candidates based in the UK, they must also
pay them to candidates based, for example, in Athens.

"The
overall requirement of the law is transparency in the recruitment process, and
it increasingly requires the decision-making process to be open and fair.
Increasingly, the law is requiring decisions to be based on the qualifications,
skills and experience of applicants, to the exclusion of background and
personal characteristics."

By Quentin Reade

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