Employers use job descriptions to prevent discrimination

you think job descriptions are just another routine part of the recruitment
process, think again, because UK employers are now using them to prevent
discrimination and avoid potential litigation.

four in five (82 per cent) employers use job descriptions for some or all of
their vacancies, more than one in five (21.2 per cent) organisations
deliberately use job descriptions in recruitment and selection to prevent
unfair discrimination and for defending cases when it is claimed to have

figure rises to almost one in three (31.5 per cent) among public sector

findings by IRS Employment Review are based on responses from 254 HR
departments surveyed in February and March 2003.

Employment Review researcher, Noelle Murphy said: “No longer is the job
description just one element of the recruitment process; today, it is much more
influential than many people may realise. The adoption of the EU’s equal
treatment directive will mean that areas such as sexual orientation, religious
belief, political views and age will soon be included in discrimination.

practitioners need to ensure any criterion used in job descriptions or person
specifications, which could be viewed as discriminatory against a protected
group, is objectively justifiable.”   

findings include: 

·           Public sector organisations are more
likely to have job descriptions for every post – more than nine in 10 (96.2 per
cent) use them for all positions in the organisation. Two in three (66.6 per
cent) private sector service organisations use job descriptions for all posts,
compared with under half (40.9 per cent) that do so in manufacturing and
production organisations

·           One in seven (13.6 per cent)
considered that the culture of their organisation did not support the formality
of job descriptions

·           Sending out job descriptions to
potential candidates is an effective way of adding a dimension of
self-selection to the recruitment process

·           Seven in 10 (69.8 per cent) employers
use job descriptions when appraising employees

·           Four in 10 (39.6 per cent)
organisations make specific reference to job descriptions in employees’

·           Almost three-quarters (72.8 per cent)
of respondents use person specifications in their organisations. The majority
of these are in the public sector (91.2 per cent) where we would expect to find
the use of more formal, transparent selection and development criteria

·           More than half (55.6 per cent) of
those surveyed use job descriptions to identify training and development needs
for their staff

By Ben Willmott

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