Information about what the job involves and what skills, qualities and experience a person will need to do it

The next part of this guide tells you more about how you can avoid all the different types of unlawful discrimination in the following situations:

  • Thinking about what the job involves and what skills, qualities and experience a person will need to do it
  • Job adverts
  • Application forms and CVs
  • Shortlisting applicants to meet or interview
  • Interviews, meetings and tests
  • Recruiting women who are pregnant or on maternity leave
  • Equality good practice

For example:

Using positive action to recruit a wider range of people

Using monitoring forms during recruitment

Before you recruit a new worker or someone to replace a person who is leaving or has left, you will be thinking about what the job involves and the skills, qualities and experience a person will need to do it.

Avoid direct discrimination

You must avoid direct discrimination against people because of their protected characteristics in what you say or write about the job.

For example:

An employer tells a female applicant on the phone that they are unsuitable for a driving job because the job has always been done by a man before and that is what they are looking for this time.

Direct discrimination cannot be objectively justified for any protected characteristic except age. But don’t take this as meaning that equality law generally allows age discrimination or stereotyping.

For example:

An employer says in a person specification that the successful candidate ‘must have youthful enthusiasm’. This would probably be direct discrimination because of age which the employer could not show to be objectively justified. What is actually needed is enthusiasm, which can be just as present in someone who the employer does not see as young, so the employer should not include the stereotype in the person specification.

Avoid requirements you cannot objectively justify

Of course, you will need the successful applicant to have particular skills, experience or qualifications to do the job.

If requirements like these are objectively justified, you can include them in what you say or write about the job and the person you are looking for, even if they exclude some people (for example, because people with a particular protected characteristic are less likely to be able to meet the requirements).

But if the requirements are not objectively justified to do the job, then using them might be unlawful indirect discrimination.

For example:

An employer specifies that a job must be done on a full-time basis without having looked at whether it might be suitable for part-time work or job sharing. The requirement to work full-time would put women at a disadvantage compared to men because more women work flexibly because of childcare responsibilities. Unless the employer can objectively justify the requirement to work full-time, this is likely to be indirect discrimination because of sex.

Recruiting disabled people

Any requirements about what the job involves, or about the person who you want to recruit, should be related to and needed as part of the job. The inclusion of unnecessary or minor requirements could discriminate against disabled people, for example, by stopping them applying.

For example:

An employer states that they want to recruit someone who is ‘active and energetic’ but in fact the job needs someone to work at a desk. This might stop some disabled people from applying if, for example, they have a mobility impairment (although, of course, many people with a mobility impairment are very active and energetic). This would be the wrong approach for an employer to take.

You should also think about whether specific qualifications are actually required or whether what is really needed is a particular skill level or task.

For example:

An employer specifies that a driving licence is required for a job which involves limited travel. An applicant for the job has no driving licence because of the effects of cerebral palsy. They are otherwise the best applicant for that job, they could easily and cheaply do the travelling involved other than by driving and it is likely to be a reasonable adjustment for the employer to let them do so. It would probably be discriminatory to insist on the specification and reject their application only because they have no driving licence.

Good practice tip for avoiding discrimination

Stick to making a list of what the job is designed to get done. Try not to make assumptions about who will be able to do it.  Making assumptions might mean you exclude people just because of their protected characteristics, which would be the wrong approach.

Remember that you must make reasonable adjustments for disabled applicants during the recruitment process and must provide and accept information in alternative formats, where this would be a reasonable adjustment.

Equality good practice: what you can do if you want to do more than equality law requires

  • Use a job description and person specification – and other more ‘formal’ processes like an application form, because:

This can make it easier for you to make sure you are not discriminating against people

They help you to focus on what the job involves and the skills, experience and qualifications someone needs to do the job well

You are less likely to get distracted by irrelevant factors, such as someone’s protected characteristics

This makes it more likely you’ll get the right person for the job – the person who can do it best – and also help you avoid tribunal claims.

  • If you decide to use a job description and person specification, make it clear what the job involves and the skills, qualities and experience the employer is looking for. Write in plain language.
  • In the job description (which says what the person who gets the job will be doing), avoid unnecessary tasks or overstated responsibilities or jargon, acronyms and abbreviations, which may exclude people who don’t understand what they mean – unless understanding special words is a necessary part of the job.
  • If a disabled person applies for the job, the law requires you to make reasonable adjustments to remove barriers that non-disabled people would not face in being able to do the job. This will be easier if you:
    • Write the job description in a way that lists what the job is for and the results which the person doing it should produce
    • Try not to focus on how the job will be done, as reasonable adjustments might enable a disabled person to do the job in a different way, but producing just as good results.
  • In the person specification (which lists the skills, qualities and experience the person who gets the job should ideally have), don’t overstate the skills, qualities or experience someone needs to do the job, and make it clear whether the skills, qualities and experience needed for the job are essential or just desirable.

More information

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