Are you recruiting fairly?

Have you heard of the phrase protected characteristics? Do you know what they all are? How does this relate to you as an employer or Line Manager? How does your recruitment stack up as a fair and objective process? You will not be discriminatory if you recruit based on objective skills and competences such as confidence, drive, ability to remain cool, leadership skills, communication skills and the ability to get on with people.

According to the Equality Act 2010, protected characteristics are aspects of a person’s identity that make them who they are. The Act protects individuals from detrimental treatment should they fall in one of the protected characteristic groups.

The Equality Act 2010 defines nine protected characteristics:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

So, what does this mean for a business? Well, it could mean hefty tribunal awards should you be found to be discriminating against someone who falls within one of the above groups. As an example, the 2017/2018 figures for employment tribunal awards gave the following:

Claim Type Max Award Median Award Average Award
Sex Discrimination 36,616 10,638 13,212
Race Discrimination 124,979 11,299 24,322
Age Discrimination 10,432 6,184 6.796
Disability Discrimination 242,130 16,523 30,698
Religious Discrimination 6.846 5,696 5,074
Sexual Orientation 24,100 12,550 12,550

There are different types of discrimination and not all of them are so obvious: direct, indirect, associative and perceptive.

  • Direct Discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic.
  • Indirect discrimination occurs when there is a rule or policy that applies to everyone but disadvantages a person with a particular protected characteristic.
  • Associative Discrimination occurs when someone is directly discriminated against because they are associated with another person who possesses a protected characteristic.
  • Discrimination by Perception occurs when someone is directly discriminated against because others think that they possess a particular protected characteristic. They do not necessarily have to possess the characteristic, just be perceived to have the characteristic.

To avoid landing yourselves in a tribunal court as an employer you need to act fairly and reasonably.

  • Assess all candidates on the same criteria
  • Write a candidate profile and job description free from discrimination
  • Have your own Equal Opportunities Policy and train all employees on this
  • Make reasonable adjustments during the recruitment process if necessary
  • Keep all notes taken at interview objective and evidence-based
  • Keep a paper trail throughout the recruitment process

Are there any updates that you need to make to your recruitment processes to ensure you don’t fall foul of the law?

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