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Age Discrimination in recruitment

It is now widely accepted that age discrimination is unlawful in the UK. Many employers however have not considered the fact that discrimination issues can arise before the employment relationship starts. It is a good idea to consider your recruitment process and look at the following issues.

  • Choice of wording. What recruitment literature does the employer have? Check brochures for prospective employees, job advertisements, job descriptions and person specifications, specifically for language that could be construed as age-related. For example, avoid specifying a minimum or maximum length of experience. Avoid if possible words like “dynamic”, “lively”, “mature” or “experienced”, that may be misinterpreted as requiring either an older or younger person.
  • Pictures. Consider whether any pictures used in the literature convey a message that might be considered discriminatory.
  • Instructions to agencies. Check written communications to recruitment agents and ensure that they do not convey discriminatory instructions.
  • Qualifications. Check whether qualifications specified in job adverts or person specifications disadvantage any particular age group and, if so, consider alternative ways of asking for experience.
  • Application forms. Requests for dates of birth or age should be removed from the application form. If the information is needed it should be kept separate for diversity monitoring forms. Requesting details of dates of education or employment may lead to assumptions based on age so should be avoided if possible. Employers Forum on Age (EFA) suggests a three-part application form:

     –  Part one: personal details including career and educational history. This is detached by HR on receipt and not seen by those who are carrying out the shortlisting, but can be used at interview and in order to verify qualifications/experience.

     –  Part two: equal opportunities form. This is detached by HR on receipt and plays no further part in recruitment.

     –  Part three: skills and competencies form. Only this part is available at the shortlisting stage.

  • Interviews. Is there any written guidance for interviewers or interview panels? If so, check that guidance is provided on age-related questions. If not, consider preparing guidance alongside training for interviewer and interview panels.
  • Offer letters. Does the company use a standard offer letter? Check for references to contractual terms or other policies that may be discriminatory.