Most employers realise that the recruitment process can be fraught with legal difficulties and have well established procedures and routines to best protect themselves. But it is worth considering instituting a checklist of the relevant issues in each organisation to ensure consistency and to emphasise the potential legal gravity of the situation.
Potential legal issues
The moment a recruitment process begins, employers should be aware that it is possible to become liable for discrimination claims. Clearly, to refuse to interview or reject applicants directly because of their sex or race - and, in Northern Ireland, their religion - could result in a legal claim being made. Similarly, to reject an applicant because of a disability without meeting the justification defence could result in a claim.
More subtly, however, the conditions in which the recruitment process are carried out could give rise to such claims. It is well established, for example, that imposing a requirement or condition which is not necessarily strictly relevant to the job could result in a discrimination claim being made by someone subjected to a detriment on that ground.
The physical arrangements made for the interview need to be taken into account, particularly in relation to disability issues. Indeed, it is worth asking a standard question of all interviewees as to whether any special arrangements should be considered to assist the interviewee.
Most employers are also aware that the questions asked at interview can have discriminatory ramifications. It is not advisable to ask the interviewee any question from which an inference can be drawn that discrimination exists. It is unwise to enquire specifically into childcare arrangements or an interviewee's racial background, for example.
It is also good practice to ensure that the same or very similar questions are asked of all interviewees so that a proper assessment of their comparative answers can be obtained. This puts all interviewees on a level playing field.
Employers need to be aware of their duties in relation to the immigration situation of any potential recruit. It is a criminal offence to recruit an individual who does not have the proper immigration status, although the statutory defence provided for in the relevant legislation is not onerous.
Again, a standard non-specific question can be