Discrimination at Interviews

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From placing the job advert on-line or on paper the recruitment process has now gone external and the applications from eager candidates start to arrive. Before employers get excited about recruiting their next employee, it would be a good reminder that candidates applying for the job are protected against discrimination before they even sign a Contract of Employment. Small businesses can be unclear on what you can and can’t ask candidates at interview stage. Employing the wrong person is far more challenging and disruptive for a small business as compared to a larger organisation and this often leads to employers asking certain questions that can lead them into trouble at an Employment Tribunal. So, it is a useful reminder to be aware of the protected characteristics that can’t be discriminated against:
  • Age: Don’t ask a candidate when they plan to retire. Instead ask them about their plans for the next 5 years, where do they see themselves in 5 years.

  • Disability: Don’t ask how many days off absent they have had. Why not ask them how they would be able to perform the key requirements of the job?

  • Gender Reassignment: Don’t ask questions that are not relevant to the candidate being able to perform the job, not even during small talk.

  • Marriage and Civil Partnership: Again same applies, how relevant is this to the candidate being able to perform the role.

  • Pregnancy and Maternity: Don’t ask a woman when they were planning to have children or if they had children asking them what they do about their childcare arrangements. This could leave the employer exposed to a sex discrimination claim. This is because primarily women are the carers for children and obviously take the maternity leave.

  • Race: Don’t ask a candidate what nationality they are. You can check if they need a work permit to work in the UK.

  • Religion or Belief: Don’t ask candidates about religious beliefs, but you can ask if you need to make any reasonable adjustments for the interview or assessment stages e.g. certain foods (Halal, Kosher)

  • Sex: Unless there is a genuine reason for employing either a male or female e.g. toilet attendant then the sex of the candidate should not come into the equation.

  • Sexual Orientation: Same rules as gender reassignment, civil partnership apply.
Avoid stereotypical assumptions and questions to keep out of hot water. Good practice during interviews is that all the candidates are asked the same questions which relate to experience, qualifications and skills in relation to the job description. Document the response from each candidate. Keep contemporaneous notes on why a particular candidate was rejected and the rationale behind the decision, just in case an allegation of discrimination is made.

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