When kicking off the recruitment process, it is important to be aware of certain legal pitfalls when hiring a new employee. Job advertisements, interview questions, checking references and making job offers all need to be done in a way that meets legal requirements.
Pitfalls To Avoid In Employment Law
The Employment Equality Act
The main legislation that impacts on the selection and interview process is the Employment Equality Act 1998. This Act is unique in that it gives legal entitlements to potential employees as well as to employers.
Under the Act there are nine grounds for discrimination as follows, gender, marital status, family status, sexual orientation, religion, age, disability, race and membership of the travelling community.
Direct discrimination occurs when by reason a person is treated less favourably than another person.
Indirect discrimination occurs when an apparently neutral decision or the equivalent proves, in practice, to bear more heavily on a category of person covered in the Act.
It is important to avoid discrimination during the recruitment process. The first stage involves the job advertisement. Careful consideration should be given to both the job specification and person specification.
Take time to consider what tasks the person will be required to do and what skills will be needed. The requirements should be directly related to the job.
Advertising Vacant Positions Must Be Handled Correctly
Newspaper, radio and television advertisements, as well as job advertisements on notice boards must ensure that job advertising is not discriminatory.
If an employer uses a third party to advertise a position, such as a recruitment agency, the employer is still responsible for ensuring that the advertisement complies with current legislation.
Application Forms Should Be Up To Legal Standard
When employers design their own application forms, these should be scrutinised for any discriminatory questions. For example do not ask the gender or race of an applicant on an application. As an alternative to the use of an application form employers may consider requesting applicants to send curriculum vitae and to outline why they would be suitable to fill the advertised position.
Considerable information can be obtained from a curriculum vitae and it is the applicant who provides it voluntarily.
You can consult an employment law solicitor to help draw up your forms.
Interview A Wide Selection Of People
Employers should organise a group of diverse interviewers during each hiring cycle. You should utilise interviewers of different age groups, experience levels and ethnic and religious backgrounds to help prevent discrimination when hiring new employees.
A diverse group of interviewers ensures a wide range of perspectives on individual candidates.
Prepare Appropriate Interview Questions
Prior to commencing the interview process ensure you as an employer have developed your interview technique. Learn how to communicate interview questions in a way that is not discriminatory. It may be necessary to sign up for an interview skills training workshop.
The following standards should be adopted at interview;
- A dedicated interview room should be set up;
- Applicants should only be admitted when the interview panel is in place;
- There should be a structured interviewing approach;
- A marking scheme should be developed in advance; and
- Detailed interview notes should be taken and retained.
Keep The Process Transparent
Keep the hiring process transparent by providing reasons for a rejected application. Employers are required to take interview notes and retain them for a period of one year.
The existence of notes is essential to defend against an investigation in the event of a claim for discrimination. In the absence of these an Equality Officer can infer a lack of transparency in the interview process. This can then establish a prima facie finding of discrimination and the burden of proof then falls on the employer to show that discrimination did not take place.
If you need further guidance then we would be delighted to offer advice in this area. Our employment law solicitors are always ready to talk, so make sure you get in touch today.