Employers are being urged to scrutinise their recruitment processes to ensure they are not putting up barriers that might prevent people applying for jobs.
Tom Hadley, director of external relations at the Recruitment and Employment Confederation, gave the warning in light of two Jobcentre Plus centres ill-advising employers on what they legally could and could not advertise for, causing confusion within the recruitment industry.
One jobcentre in Norfolk initially refused to place an advert for ‘reliable workers’ for fear that it would discriminate against unreliable workers. However, this was soon revoked.
And the boss of a hairdressing salon in Newcastle was recently told she could not advertise for a ‘junior stylist’ because the ad could be deemed ageist and aimed at young people only.
However, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) told Personnel Today the word ‘junior’ was acceptable when it referred to experience rather than age, adding Jobcentre Plus staff advice “does not always have to be taken”.
Hadley said incidents such as these turned the equality and diversity agenda into a “laughing stock”.
“What it can do is turn some employers off the whole diversity and equality agenda. It makes it seem like its all PC nonsense, a tick-box approach. The bigger agenda is how we review how we recruit, and are we indirectly putting barriers up?” he said.
Skills, achievements and competence for the job should be focused upon, rather than personal details, he added.
Morag Hutchison, senior associate at law firm Pinsent Masons, said employers need to be very careful in the wording of job ads. “Wording that indicates that employers are looking for a certain age group or people with a certain ‘outlook’ can cause problems.
“For example, an advert looking for someone who is ‘dynamic and energetic’ could be used as evidence of age or disability discrimination. Focusing on the specific skills are competencies required for the job rather than the characteristics of the individual is more likely to comply with the discrimination legislation.”
US clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch recently caused controversy by advertising for “cool and good looking” people to work in a new store based in Scotland.
The DWP spokeswoman added: “When ‘junior’ and ‘senior’ refer to experience rather than age, then we will carry the advert. Jobcentre Plus has always and continues to advertise vacancies for junior stylists.”
Dianah Worman, diversity adviser at the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, said it was not unfairly discriminatory to specify the type of level or experience required for a candidate to carry out a role.
“Employers need to do this to attract the skills and abilities necessary for the positions they are trying to fill. However, they should be careful to avoid language in recruitment adverts that might indicate there is an age criteria involved, which cannot be justified,” she said.