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Businesses Urged to Ensure Fair Treatment

Recent research into recruitment activity by British businesses has found evidence of confusion and misunderstanding over how the law relates to recruitment practices and decisions.

Potential for Bias

Encouragingly, the research, by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, discovered little evidence of discriminatory practices or preferential treatment in recruitment decisions, and found that most employers look primarily for the skills, experience and qualifications for the vacancy on offer, regardless of nationality. However, it did say it found the potential for bias, as well as room for improvement in awareness of the law.

Research Findings

Key findings of the research include:

  • Only 39% of businesses surveyed knew that it is against the law to advertise jobs in Britain exclusively in a foreign language, unless the ability to speak that language is a genuine requirement of the job.
  • Only 45% knew that employers must check that all job applicants have a right to work in the UK before employing them, irrespective of their place of birth. Around 6% thought it was legal to offer foreign-born workers less than the minimum wage and 9% believed it was lawful to pay foreign-born workers different rates from British ones. 
  • A third of workplaces (31%) said that the main advantage of employing foreign-born workers was that they were generally hard working, and the most quoted disadvantage was poor English/literacy skills (44%).
  • 39% of employers said that the main advantage of employing UK workers was their skills in English language and literacy.
  • Around a third (34%) of all workplaces that employed foreign-born workers said that they would prefer to hire workers who spoke the same language as existing foreign-born staff whose first language was not English. This is potentially discriminatory if language skills are not a requirement for the role.

“Our research shows that, regardless of the value placed on both UK and foreign-born workers, some prejudices do exist and there are misunderstandings about employment law that could lead to discriminatory recruitment practices,” commented Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, David Isaac. “We will be writing to business organisations to remind them of employers’ legal responsibility to ensure that recruitment is a level playing field.”

“Our research shows that, in the vast majority of cases, employers recruit on merit, despite some difference in attitudes towards British and foreign born workers,” he added. “We need to guard against negative attitudes and stereotypes creeping in, and continue to ensure that the best person for the role should be given every opportunity to show how successful they can be.”

Female Workers at a Disadvantage

It’s not just at the recruitment stage that the potential for discrimination and bias can exist.

A recent survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors found that 41% of women questioned between the ages of 13 and 22 believe their gender will hold them back in the workplace. In contrast, 20% of young men apparently expect to earn more in their careers than their female counterparts.

However, women also believe that the recent rise of female leaders, such as Theresa May and Hilary Clinton, will help to change existing attitudes and encourage more diversity in the workplace.

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For expert legal advice on workplace discrimination, or other areas of employment law, then contact our specialist employment lawyers today.

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