Companies ‘Modelling Network’ and ‘Kingston Residential – Lettings and Property Management’ in Cathays, Cardiff has been in the news recently after posting an inappropriate advert on social media. Kingston Residential was looking for a receptionist to join the team. The modelling agency had advertised the role allegedly on their behalf saying ‘looking for a good looking girl to work in the front office…’
The advert went viral on social media, attracting negative comments from MP’s such as Harriet Harman and Jo Stevens. Kingston Residential firstly said the post was a practical joke and then went on to say that they were not associated with Modelling Network. If a joke, it was not particularly funny and certainly somewhat unwise. Either way it has attracted a lot of attention and could have also landed them in hot water at tribunal. Oddly enough it’s not the “good looking” requirement that starts the water boiling legally (though that grates),but the “girl” – which suggests that the person required should be both young and female.
In some roles it may be justifiable to need a woman for the role rather than a man. For example if you are looking for a social worker to work with vulnerable women it will not be appropriate to have a male doing the role. The same may be true of other protected characteristics; age, race, sexual orientation, religion and belief, marital status, pregnancy and maternity, and disability. For instance it may be justifiable to require a form teacher in a Catholic school to be a practising Catholic. These are known as genuine occupational requirements (GORs) and they are construed very narrowly. Each case will turn on its own facts.
Asking for a candidate with a particular protected characteristic without proper justification for doing so is unlawful discrimination. There are people out there who will look for unlawful job adverts just to take an employer to tribunal. Before she was “outed” and effectively stopped by a case brought by Investigo, accountant Ms Keane (then aged in her early 50s) had cleared a very large sum of money in pre-trial settlements from careless and unsuspecting businesses who were clearly recruiting for accountants at the start of their careers.
There is no limit on the award for discrimination so not only could you get some pretty bad press you could also end up out of pocket.
In most circumstances protected characteristics should be irrelevant. We all have at least four of them! Any decision to recruit an individual should be based on his/her ability to do the job. To make this decision start with a job description and person specification. From this design a recruitment process that collects data about the skills required and tests the level.
We have recently been advertising an internship for a Trainee HR Consultant. We train the right candidate so knowledge of employment law isn’t necessary but a there are a number of requirements including a willingness to learn. Without that willingness to learn a trainee will sink in the first couple of weeks.
With a job description and person specification you may want to list some of the benefits you are offering to attract candidates, e.g. salary, holiday, company car, bonus etc. Tell the candidate how to apply for the role and that should be the lot.
Kingstons Residental dropped a clanger very publically. If you’re not sure whether something should be included in your advert or you need help with any other HR advice, get in touch.
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