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Recruitment Discrimination – When does an Application Cross the Line?


This article has been submitted by Greenaway Scott.

If you’re looking to expand your workforce the first logical step is to start the recruitment process and begin drafting an application.

But what, legally, are you allowed to ask a prospective candidate?

There are some very specific characteristics that you cannot base recruitment on or you could be faced with discriminatory procedures. But what are these characteristics and how can you avoid them?

Here we have compiled some top tips on getting recruitment right …

Protected Characteristics

It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of certain “Protected Characteristics”. These are: sex, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, age or disability.

Job Adverts

An employer must not state or imply that they’ll discriminate against anyone. This includes statements saying they aren’t able to cater for disabled workers. Phrases such as ‘highly experienced’ or ‘recent graduate’ should only be used when these are requirements of the job.

Questions when recruiting: before making a job offer

Employers cannot ask candidates whether they are married, single or in a civil partnership, have children, or plans to have children.

They also can’t enquire about health or disabilities, unless: there are job requirements that can’t be met with reasonable adjustments; an employer is finding out if someone needs help to take part in an interview; or an employer is using ‘positive action’ to recruit a disabled person. Even if a candidate discloses information in interview, an employer must not ask questions in response unless they fall within the permitted exceptions.

Employers can only ask for someone’s date of birth on an application form if the candidate must be a certain age to do the job. They can ask for this on a separate equality monitoring form.

Unprejudiced factors

Candidates don’t have to tell an employer about criminal convictions that are spent. An employer cannot refuse to employ someone because of their conviction – there are some areas exempt from this rule, eg schools.

Employing people with protected characteristics

An employer can choose a candidate with Protected Characteristic over one who doesn’t if they’re both suitable and the employer thinks that people with that characteristic are underrepresented in the workforce, profession or industry or suffer a disadvantage connected to that characteristic. An employer must make decisions on a case by case basis and not because of a certain policy.