Legal Article - Employment Law

Employment Selection Process: The Do’s and Don’ts

To prevent discrimination in selecting applicants it is recommended that:

(i) employers should ensure that personnel staff, line managers and all other employees who may come into contact with job applicants, should be trained in the law, including the fact that it is unlawful to instruct or put pressure on others to discriminate;

(ii) applications from men and women etc should be processed in exactly the same way. For example, there should not be separate lists of male and female or married and single applicants. All those handling applications and conducting interviews should be trained in the avoidance of unlawful discrimination and records of interviews kept, where practicable, showing why applicants were or were not appointed:

(iii) questions should relate to the employment requirements of the job. Where it is necessary to assess whether personal circumstances will affect performance of the job (for example, where it involves unsocial hours or extensive travel) this should be discussed objectively without detailed questions based on assumptions about marital status, children and domestic obligations.

Questions about marriage plans or family intentions should not be asked, as they could be construed as showing bias against women. Information necessary for personnel records can be collected after a job offer has been made.

Job application forms should not contain discriminatory questions. Some questions on application forms could be unlawful, irrespective of how the answers are used or interpreted, if:

(i) they are asked only of women or men or different nationalities, or trade union members etc, and

(ii) it can be shown that the asking of them constitutes “less favourable treatment”.
It is not necessarily true that asking the same questions of all applicants ensures non-discrimination.

The use of the information may still be discriminatory.

Examples of questions on application forms, which would, or might, discriminate on grounds of sex or marriage, for example are as follows:

• marital status
• number/age of children
• husbands employment (women only)
• parents occupations
• medical questions relating to “female ailments”.

During the selection interview the interviewer must be particularly careful not to treat people of different sex, race etc less favourably than other people.

Candidates must be assessed solely on their qualifications, relevant knowledge, experience and personal qualities. In the case of sex discrimination the following advice should be followed.

Criteria adopted for the assessment of candidates should not discriminate indirectly against women, e.g. length of experience in particular types of work, which women may not have had because their working lives have been interrupted by periods of domestic responsibility.

Subtle and unconscious discrimination can result from general assumptions about women’s capabilities, characteristics and motivation.

For example, preconceptions about their ability to supervise men. In judging personal qualities by reference to leisure interests, it is important to remember that many women have less opportunity for these than men because they combine work with domestic responsibilities.

Other dangers are preconceptions about what are ‘men’s jobs’ and what are ‘women’s jobs’ and stereotypes of the kinds of work, which are suitable for men and women.

Avoid asking women candidate’s questions such as:

• Any intention of getting married?
• Any plans for a family?
• How would you, as the boss, feel if you were the only women in all-male office?

If the decision not to appoint a candidate was based upon answers to these kinds of questions then you may have discriminated unlawfully.

If the question is not intended to influence your decision in any way, then there is no point in asking for this information as it will lead applicants to suspect you of having an intention to discriminate, which in turn could lead to a complaint against you.

If in doubt ask yourself whether you would put the same question to a man, and if so, whether it can be justified.

Questions, which are relevant to the job – for example, about candidates’ ability to undertake shift work – should be asked for both men and women.

 Similarly, if mobility is involved, both men and women may be asked about it in relation to the demands of the job. You should make not unwarranted assumptions or enquiries about the future mobility of any candidates based on hypothetical circumstances.

Published: 24 Mar 2011

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