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Job adverts: How not to discriminate against applicants

Most people know that equality legislation protects them from unfair discrimination when in employment. But it's not so widely known that it also protects them before they even have a job. That's because discrimination laws aim to ensure that no one gets unfavourable treatment during the application process.

Employers have to bear this in mind when it comes to drawing up a job advertisement. Whether it's going out in the local paper, on the internet or on television, an advertisement cannot discriminate on the basis of any 'protected characteristics' - such as age, race, sex, disability, pregnancy and maternity, religion or belief.

For this reason, care needs to be taken with language in a job advert. Phrases such as 'recent graduate' or 'highly experienced' should be avoided unless these are genuine requirements of the job, as they may be seen to be discriminatory on the basis of age.

Gender-specific terms could also be problematic. Using 'bar maid' or 'handyman', for instance, implies that the job is only available to one or other sex. 'German-speaking sales rep' should be used over 'German sales rep', because it would be discriminatory single out one nationality if it's just the language skill that's needed.

Indirect discrimination in a job advert is also possible if it's requiring something that applies to all but disadvantages a particular group because of a protected characteristic. For example, saying that applicants must wear company hats may be seen to disadvantage some whose religion demands them to have certain other headwear. Advertising only to a specific group, for example in a men's magazine, may also constitute indirect discrimination.

In support of using non-discriminatory language, you could include in the advert a statement of commitment to equal opportunities, which will underline your organisation as one that welcomes applications from all sections of the community.

Acas can provide tailor-made solutions to help your organisation stay on top of its Equality, Diversity & Inclusion: how Acas can help obligations. Acas also runs practical training courses on Discrimination, Recruitment and Equality, diversity and the Equality Act 2010.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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