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An Age Discrimination case caught my attention this week. A 54 year old from Bristol is thought to have taken legal action against more than 60 firms in a 3-year period over ‘discriminatory’ advertisements, which he says alienate older applicants. He uses a free online government tribunal service to lodge formal claims against various companies and recruitment agencies.
He e-mails the company to advise them they can avoid court action by making a single ‘settlement’ payment – of up to £3,500. It is not clear how much money he has made from this, but it is likely to run into several thousands, costing businesses like you a small fortune. In one age discrimination claim, made against a small business in the Midlands last year, Mr Berry is accused of initially seeking £2,500. He later lowered his price by £1,000 after the business owner replied saying it would leave her struggling to pay her mortgage. It is believed he has not attended an interview with any of the companies he has made claims against.
Does your recruitment practices leave you open to age discrimination claims?
Discrimination of any kind is wrong, and obviously illegal in relation to UK employment law, but some companies leave themselves exposed. Some job adverts clearly state “would suit a recent graduate” or “school leavers apply here” which is clearly targeting younger candidates and excluding older candidates, the very reason age discrimination was introduced. Likewise, I have also seen adverts stating “would suit a retired person”, which is clearly excluding younger workers.
It is important employers who are recruiting seriously consider employment legislation, as you could end up paying out substantial costs.
What process do you follow when recruiting new staff?
The first stage after agreeing you have a vacancy to fill, is normally to advertise if you have no one in the business is ready to step into the role. When advertising, it is important that you do not discriminate, either in terms of age or any other discriminatory matter such as gender, race or disability. The wording of the advert is very important, and should not exclude groups. Most companies either advertise using newspaper or the internet, and there are several job boards around (including our own Free Job Board if you’d like to try it!)
Your advert should clearly state the job title, location, working hours and a brief outline of the duties and what skills or experience the candidate should have. Including salary is also useful, but some companies choose to omit this.
After receiving your applications, you will then be in a position to short list or sift these. The purpose of this is to eliminate any candidates not suitable and to review people you think would be suitable. When doing this, it is vital the decisions made are objective, and the sifting should focus on the key requirements of the role against their application – do not rule out people who you either think are too young or too old to fit in, or if you know they have a disability. In fact, your application forms should not even ask for a date of birth if you want to avoid any potential age discrimination claim.
Interview or selection
Most companies carry out interviews, but more and more now conduct some form of assessment. This is relevant to the job – or it should be! For example, if you are recruiting an office administrator, you might want to assess their PC skills, telephone manner and time management. Any assessment should reflect this.
When carrying out an interview, it’s important you keep the questions related to the job. It is common practice for companies to conduct competency-based interviews, as this specifically relates to past experiences. You should not ask questions that could potentially leave you open to a discriminatory claim. For example, never ask a female candidate if she is planning on having a family as this would be deemed as sexual discrimination.
All candidates should be asked the same questions and undergo the same assessment. Keep accurate notes of all interviews and ensure these are factual.
After you have assessed all candidates, you are now in a position to make a decision regarding who you would like to offer. This should be done objectively and based on their assessment or interview. Remember, unsuccessful candidates are entitled to ask for feedback and you need to ensure this is based on their ability to do the role, not on personal opinion.
Once you have identified your ideal candidate, make the offer verbally and confirm in writing. There should be no surprises at this stage, as this should have been shared during the interview process. Do not reject any candidates until your first choice accepts – if they decline you would want to review your second or third choice. You should send a contract of employment in advance of their start date, and we can assist you in this area to ensure you are compliant with UK employment law.
We advise that you obtain references and that your offer is subject to satisfactory references. This allows you to withdraw the offer if a reference comes back that is not satisfactory.
To make sure your business is protected and that you have sound recruitment practices, please call us today on 0800 612 4772 or get a Free Quote for HR Services via our website.