Equality legislation in the UK helps to prevent unlawful discrimination by recruiters and employers and helps to promote diversity in the workplace. It’s important for all employers to understand the laws surrounding these issues and take positive steps to uphold correct employment procedures.
Under current employment law, it’s unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of:
Discrimination can take many forms and can include overlooking particular candidates for vacancies or promotions based on the reasons above. It can also involve treating individuals less favourably than others or, in more extreme cases, bullying or harassing them.
All types of discrimination generally fall into the following categories:
Direct discrimination: where an employer treats an employee less favourably than another because of one of the reasons listed above. For example, if an employer will only consider male applicants for a labouring job and therefore rejects all female candidates.
Indirect discrimination: where a rule or condition of employment works against a specific group of people. For example, insisting on a young, dynamic candidate might restrict applications to people of a certain age group.
An employer may be able to make a genuine case for restricting the applications to a specific group – for example, if the vacancy is for a teacher at a faith school – the candidates may need to be of the faith in question. If the role involves serving alcohol, the applicant must be over 18.
Harassment and victimisation: such as intimidating or offensive behaviour, racist or sexist language or making someone a victim of fewer opportunities.
It’s a legal requirement to avoid discriminatory actions in a recruitment process. If a candidate feels that they’ve been discriminated against in their job application, they may be able to make an employment tribunal case against the employer.
As of 6th April 2011, you can recruit a candidate or promote an existing employee who is of equal merit to another candidate if you reasonably believe they are part of a group that’s underrepresented in the workforce or at a disadvantage due to a particular characteristic.
Although, do bear in mind that the candidate must be of equal merit – not less suitable for the role. There must also be a justifiable way of addressing their underrepresentation and/or disadvantage.