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Get it down in black

24th May 2007, Page 36
24th May 2007
Page 36
Page 37
Page 36, 24th May 2007 — Get it down in black
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Which of the following most accurately describes the problem?

and white

Whether your firm is large or small, take care not to fall foul of anti-discrimination legislation when advertising vacancies.

Mark Watson outlines the legal requirements.

Even without the driver shortage, filling vacancies isn't as easy as it used to be. As an employer, you cannot simply pick and choosecandidates according to whim and prejudice — you must comply with a multitude of laws and regulations. Get a single point wrong and you can expect trouble from litigious applicants.

But if you stick to the rules outlined here, you'll avoid such problems.

Diversity of applicants

The watchword when thinkingaboutjob adverts is diversity, which in the case of employment law is a euphemism for avoiding the risk of discrimination.

Unlike other employment rights, antidiscrimination laws apply to applicants for jobs, notjust existing employees.Adverts which could be taken to indicate an intention to discriminate could lead to action against you by the Equal Opportunities Commission, the Disability Rights Commission or the Commission for Racial Equality.

They could also be used as evidence to support an unsuccessful (or even successful) applicant's claim for discrimination in recruitment.

Advertise every time

One important piece of advice is to advertise each and every time there is a vacancy Informal methods of recruitment such as word of mouth have always been common in road transport. But the various equality agencies advise against this practice because it often results in replication of the workforce's existing pattern of race, age and gender, simply because people tend to recruit people like themselves.

Using a range of recruitment methods is more likely to attract a diverse pool of applicants.

Control your content

The wording of an advert is critical.The law no longer allows you to use gender-specific job titles such as'salesman','chairman' orwaitress', so use a gender-neutral alternative such as 'salesperson' (or, if that is just too painful, use both the male and female titles). Fortunately this isn't a problem with 'driver'.

Take great care over the job criteria, as some genders, races and groups may be less likely to meet certain criteria. For example, fewer women than men hold driving licences or can work full-time, so you must be able to justify each requirement.

Don't allow minor aspects of the role to influence the job requirements in the advert because it might not be legally justifiable to exclude applicants on this basis.

Mind your language

Be sensitive to your choice of language — carelessly chosen adjectives can suggest discrimination where none is intended. For example, don't advertise for an "energetic" candidate if what you want is enthusiasm, or a "dynamic" one if you are looking for a proactive approach, because either term could deter disabled candidates.

Liberal scatterings of superlatives can also be risky: employers who demand "spectacular", -dazzling" or "stunning" skills are setting themselves a high hurdle to clear in terms of justification.

Positive action

In some cases it may be permissible to encourage applicants from under-represented groups. But care should be taken to ensure that the eligibility criteria for positive action are met, or the advert will be illegal.

In no circumstances should any form of discrimination (however well intentioned) occur at the point of selection between candidates.

If you do not meet the criteria for positive action in the advert wording itself, you could still target a particular publication to reach the under-represented group as long as this it is only one of a number of recruitment methods you use.

Where should you advertise?

Be careful about where adverts are placed. Again, the objective is to ensure that your advert reaches a diverse readership. Ask publications about their readership profile and circulation.

Equal opportunities guidance encourages employers to advertise widely, including in local and national papers, job centres and company websites, as well as trade magazines such as Commercial Motor. Not all of these will be suitable in each case, but thought should be given before disregarding a particular method.

Be careful of advertising solely in a publication read by only one gender or group. For example, advertising for a secretary or receptionist in magazines read mainly by women is not just stereotyping; it is likely to discriminate against men.

You're responsible Don't assume that if a recruitment consultant or agency places the advert that you're not responsible for any problem,any more than you can duck responsibility for the condition of your vehicles by contracting out your maintenance. The buck stops with the employer and this includes information disseminated through job centres, career offices, schools, colleges, polytechnics and so on.

in some cases the agent placing the advert will also be liable (as a maintenance contractor might for an unroadworthy truck), but this will not get you off the hook. Give written instructions to the agent in case there is a subsequent dispute.

Avoid discrimination In some eases,a advert discriminating on grounds of race will be unlawful even if it would not be unlawful to discriminate when selecting for the job.

For example,while recruitment for jobs based wholly outside the UK might not be covered by the Race Relations Act, it is still illegal to place a discriminatory advert for the positions This is because a public display of racial prejudices is considered inherently offensive. •

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