Fergal Dowling writes an Employment Law Column for the Birmingham Post
An MP recently suggested that job applicants' CVs should be anonymous in a bid to remove the potential of discrimination, deliberate or otherwise. The idea is that, rather than including their gender, race, age or their name, candidates simply use their national insurance number.
Employers and recruitment consultancies are likely to be awash with CVs now and in the coming weeks both from school leavers and graduates looking to begin their careers and, sadly, from candidates who have been made redundant.
I suspect that, with regards to the name on the CV, it could be argued that one could draw conclusions about an applicant's age, social standing or background, not to mention gender or race. The fact is that there are numerous pitfalls which employers need to avoid when engaging in the recruitment process or face the prospect of charges of discrimination being laid at their doors.
Employers break the law if they discriminate against an applicant on grounds relating to age, disability, nationality, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, status as a married person or civil partner, pregnancy, maternity leave or membership of a trade union.
Therefore, it is essential that bosses put in place some systems and processes to remove the opportunity for wilful or unwitting discrimination.
Produce a shortlist comparing the candidates' details with the criteria they must meet to be considered. Involve colleagues. Conceal details indicating gender, race, age etc.
Beware of questions and topics during interview which may be construed as discriminatory, such as interviewees' intentions regarding starting a family or sexual orientation. Ascertain information about candidates' disabilities under the Disability Discrimination Act, but ensure it does not influence decisions.
Keep notes of what's said during the interview but not your thoughts about the interviewee. These notes may be required at a future date should there be a need to mount a defence against a candidate's allegations of discrimination.
Any tests – e.g. psychometric – within the selection process mustn't discriminate against candidates on grounds of disability or race or gender. All data arising from the selection process must be held securely.
Following interview, benchmark the candidates in a non-discriminatory fashion. Once a candidate has been deemed successful - and back-ups identified in case of refusal - make checks, including qualifications, references and right to work.
Draft the offer letter highlighting terms & conditions and include any conditional criteria, e.g. the offer is subject to a probationary period or medical examination (which must be demanded of all prospective employees).
Managers should remember that a company's positive reputation is vital. A company whose reputation becomes tarnished by charges of discrimination being laid at its door could find that candidates discriminate against it when it is seeking employees.