Isn't the number 7 supposed to be lucky? Well, it's NOT when it comes to these 7 taboo topics!

As recruiters we see employer’s Job Specs on a daily basis, and it’s clear the majority of  employers are still unaware of at least some, if not all, of these 7 ‘deadly sins’ !

Ignorance of the law, so they say, is no excuse!  And yet employers are regularly breaking the rules without knowing they’re doing it, often long before they even get to interview
stage.

The first and most common issue we see is the use of seemingly innocent phrases like this.  “Must have a minimum 2 years’ experience in a similar role”,  or this  “ would suit 
applicants with 3 or more years PQE”.

You may be wondering what’s wrong with phrases like these.  After all, many employers use length-of-time in a similar role as a rough measure / indicator of the applicant's skill 
level when selecting candidates for interview. They then test that indication with a more precise skill test when candidates come for interview.  

Sounds perfectly logical, practical and fair, and yet...

Here's how I discovered (by accident) that questions like these are no longer acceptable.

A few years ago...

I posted an advert for a vacancy on the JobCentrePlus website. Not our favourite place to advertise (in fact probably our least favourite), but our client specifically asked us to 
include them for widest possible coverage. Our client was looking for skilled engineers and their Job Spec stipulated that to do the job effectively their new employee would need 
at least 3 years experience in a similar role.

To give as good an indication as I could about the role to prospective applicants, I mentioned in the advert "this role would suit applicants with 3 years' or more experience in a 
similar role".

The lull before the storm

All was well, several people applied and I'm pleased to say we filled the vacancy. Our client was happy and I was pleased we'd done a good job for them.  And then...

I had a phone call from a staff member at JobCentre Plus. She told me in no uncertain terms that they had noted the wording of our advert and it was inappropriate to state a length 
of experience as it is considered to be 'age discriminatory'. Discriminating against who exactly?, I asked.  It is considered by HMG to be discriminating against people who are not 
old enough to have 3 years experience, and as such potentially illegal, was the answer.  I was told our adverts would be monitored and if they saw any discriminatory language in 
future they would close our account and consider escalating it legally. 

I wasn't too concerned about the potential of having our account closed - it's not a resource we like or use very often. But I've been very, very careful to avoid references to 
length of experience ever since!

I know what you're probably thinking

If that constitutes discrimination, then doesn't most recruitment involve discrimination?  

Not really. We select on many grounds: education, skills, experience, personality, career history, commute distance, team compatibility etc... and they are all aids to the selection 
process, not discrimination.

But certain selection criterion are specifically barred, labelled discriminatory and are illegal.

So let's get to the point. What are the seven questions we need to avoid?  

The SEVEN deadly 'discriminatory' sins

HMG advise employers NOT to ask the following (or similar) questions at interview.  

1. Are you married, single or in a civil partnership?

2. Do you have children or plan to have children?

3. Do you have any health issues or a disability ? [ NB.may be discussed in certain  circumstances - see link below ]

4. What's your date of birth / how old are you. [ Unless required for legal or equality measuring purposes ]

5. Do you have any spent or unspent criminal convictions

6. Are you a member of a Trade Union

7. Questions involving 'Protected Characteristics', which includes race, colour, religion and several other topics [ For the definition of  'Protected Characteristics' see links 
below ]

You can be in serious trouble both legally and financially if you unwittingly ask a discriminatory question at interview, whether the interviewee is offered the job or not!

If there’s something you feel you really need to know which could be considered discriminatory (even when it isn’t intended to be), try to carefully steer the conversation in such 
a way that the candidate discloses the information voluntarily.

Be Aware

Aside from bad publicity that could follow a genuine complaint against you, be very aware that there are 'opportunist' job-seekers out there (just as there are 'opportunist' 
employers
!) who will happily take a sizeable chunk of your money through a tribunal if they are unsuccessful at interview and you hand them the opportunity on a plate.

More information

The information in this post was obtained from HMG website https://www.gov.uk/employer-preventing-discrimination/recruitment and 
https://www.gov.uk/employer-preventing-discrimination/what-discrimination-is  on 13 January 2017.

The moral of the story?  Be careful what you ask before, at and after interview, and if in doubt, seek specialist advice!

Thank you for reading.

E&OE

 

Call 0161 408 6110 if you'd like to discuss further

 

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