Unless you meet one of the limited exceptions, the Equality Act 2010 means that you must be sure not to discriminate against applicants on the grounds of the protected characteristics. What practical steps can you take to avoid discrimination in recruitment?
(1) Your Recruitment Policy and process
Having a written clear and transparent policy covering the whole recruitment process, including selection, is essential.
A comprehensive policy should cover every step of the recruitment process from the point when you first decide to recruit right up until appointing the successful candidate and informing the unsuccessful applicants. With avoiding discrimination in mind your policy needs to include:
- the need for a clear description or profile of the job and the criteria which are required before the recruitment process starts
- guidance on the language used in advertising a role and where it is advertised – for example, “graduate” should be avoided unless it is really an essential criterion for the position
- interview selection process
- interview preparation and process (such as meeting arrangements and questioning)
(2) Follow your policy and process
It sounds obvious but it’s vital that you stick to your process and keep records to prove that you have.
If you find there is a need for an exception, consider whether your policy needs changing but always keep a record of the reasons for your decision to deviate.
(3) Understand the requirement to make reasonable adjustments
There may be occasions when, even at the interview stage, it is apparent that an applicant would be the ideal candidate to recruit, but that you would need to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate that person. At this stage you have a legal duty to consider making those reasonable adjustments, so it’s important that you are clear as to what can be done, based on the size of your practice and the economic resources available.
(4) Know what you can and can not ask about applicants
You may want to know certain things about the candidate, such as their health or family commitments. There may be limited circumstances when you can tackle these issues, for example, to determine if an applicant would be medically capable of carrying out an integral part of the job role which, under best practice, you would have already established as part of the job profile before recruitment started. Even then, make sure that questions are limited, relevant and unambiguous.
You also need to take care that you are not indirectly asking such questions, for example, about sickness absence in their last role or asking about their family whilst making small talk.
Having a clear policy and process for recruitment will mean that you should have a transparent and fair system which you can rely on to ensure you recruit the best candidate for the job and avoid any discrimination claims from applicants.