Employment And The Equality Act – Recruitment
Keeping up with employment law can be a headache for small businesses, but it is essential to frequently review employment policy and practices and be aware of equality laws to avoid the risk of employment tribunal cases. Every phase of the employment process, from the hiring and selection process right through to employees leaving the organisation, is governed by equality laws and employees, or possible employees, have rights at each stage.
The bulk of equality law in the UK is contained in the Equality Act 2010 which came into force on 1 October 2010 and brings together all existing anti-discrimination legislation that has developed over the past four decades. It identifies nine “protected characteristics” previously protected under separate legislation – disability, age, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, marriage and civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity – and provides a legal structure to protect the rights of individuals and develop equal opportunities for all.
The recruitment and selection process should be conducted in a way that promotes equal opportunities to see that no unlawful discrimination occurs. Job adverts should be widely publicised in order to encourage applications from all suitably qualified and experienced people and should not be restricted to areas or channels which would exclude or disproportionately affect applications from a particular gender or racial or age group. In addition, the advertisement should avoid prescribing requirements as to marital status or specifying an age limit or group and words like “mature” or “young” should not be used.
At interview, all questions should pertain to the selection criteria and questions should not be derived from assumptions about roles in the home and in the family, or the assumed qualifications of different ethnic or age groups for the post in question. Job seekers should not be asked their age or about their health and disabled applicants should not be asked about the nature of their disability or how it will affect their ability to carry out the job.
A detailed record of each interview and selection decisions should be made and kept for six months to provide feedback, if subsequently requested by applicants. The provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 permit applicants to ask to see interview notes where they form part of a “set” of information about the applicant (e.g. the application form, references taken up etc, or the full personnel file if the applicant is already employed byr the company). The reasons for appointing or not appointing a particular applicant may also be challenged under discrimination laws.
Once the successful applicant has accepted the job offer, a written statement of the main terms and conditions of their employment is required by law to be issued to the employee within two months of them starting in the job.
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