Employers: preventing discrimination

2. Discrimination during recruitment

Discrimination in job adverts

You must not state or imply in a job advert that you’ll discriminate against anyone. This includes saying that you aren’t able to cater for workers with a disability.

Only use phrases like ‘recent graduate’ or ‘highly experienced’ when these are actual requirements of the job. Otherwise you could discriminate against younger or older people who might not have had the opportunity to get qualifications.

Where you advertise might cause indirect discrimination - for example, advertising only in men’s magazines.

Get help advertising a job without discriminating

Small Business Recruitment Service
Telephone: 0345 601 2001 (option 2)
Textphone: 0345 601 2002
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Questions you can’t ask when recruiting

You must not ask candidates about ‘protected characteristics’ or whether they:

  • are married, single or in a civil partnership
  • have children or plan to have children

Asking about health or disability

You can only ask about health or disability if:

  • there are necessary requirements of the job that can’t be met with reasonable adjustments
  • you’re finding out if someone needs help to take part in a selection test or interview
  • you’re using ‘positive action’ to recruit a disabled person

You might be breaking the law if any discrimination happens during their recruitment process, even if you use a recruitment agency.

Asking for a date of birth

You can only ask for someone’s date of birth on an application form if they must be a certain age to do the job, eg selling alcohol.

You can ask someone their date of birth on a separate equality monitoring form. You shouldn’t let the person selecting or interviewing candidates see this form.

Spent criminal convictions

Applicants don’t have to tell you about criminal convictions that are spent. You must treat the applicant as if the conviction has not happened, and cannot refuse to employ the person because of their conviction.

There are some areas of employment that are exempt from this rule, eg schools.

Trade union membership

You must not use membership of a trade union as a factor in deciding whether to employ someone. This includes:

  • not employing someone because they’re a member of a trade union
  • insisting someone joins a trade union before you’ll employ them

Employing people with protected characteristics

You can choose a candidate who has a protected characteristic over one who doesn’t if they’re both suitable for the job and you think that people with that characteristic:

  • are underrepresented in the workforce, profession or industry
  • suffer a disadvantage connected to that characteristic (eg people from a certain ethnic group are not often given jobs in your sector)

You can only do this if you’re trying to address the under-representation or disadvantage for that particular characteristic. You must make decisions on a case by case basis and not because of a certain policy.

You can’t choose a candidate who isn’t as suitable for the job just because they have a protected characteristic.

Favouring disabled candidates

When a disabled person and a non-disabled person both meet the job requirements, you can treat the disabled person more favourably.