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Hiring an employee: Part one

This two-part business briefing will highlight the key legal issues a business needs to consider when recruiting a new employee.

Before advertising

•  Make sure all staff involved in the recruitment process have had equal opportunities training (and they continue to receive it while working for the business).

•  Draw-up the following documents:

    •  a job description which sets out
       the title and main purpose of the job, the place of the job holder within the business and the main tasks or responsibilities of the post.

    •  a person specification which details the experience, know-how and qualifications, skills and abilities necessary for the job in question.
       The requirements can be split between those that are “essential” for the job and those that are merely “desirable”.

•  Ensure that none of the requirements in either document discriminates against any groups of employees. In particular, consider whether any                  requirements for specific qualifications,          working hours or times, travel, age ranges or dress are necessary for the         job in question.

•  Consider whether the job needs to be full-time or whether it is open to part-time, home working, flexible working or job sharing.  If a business specifies that the job is full-time, it may need to be able to justify its decision.

The advert

•  Decide whether the job should be advertised internally, externally or both.

•  Consider using specialist publications, websites and agencies to target different communities, ages and sexes.

•  Think carefully when writing the advert.  Protection from discrimination           because of a protected characteristic (age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation) covers all areas of employment, including job adverts.  For example, avoid using language that might imply only someone of a certain age would be suitable (for example, “mature”,  “experienced” or “young”).

•  Ensure any employees absent from work (including women on maternity leave or those on long-term sick leave) are informed of the vacancy to enable them to apply.  Failure to do so could amount to discrimination.

The application

•  Use a standard application form to enable individual applicants’ answers to be directly compared against the selection criteria more easily and help avoid potential unlawful discrimination claims.

•  Draw up a shortlist using the same criteria used in the job description and person specification.  Every applicant should be marked against the same criteria to help avoid any potential unlawful discrimination claims.

•  If a business is making redundancies, it must consider applications for suitable vacancies from employees selected for redundancy ahead of external applicants.  Women selected for redundancy while on maternity leave are entitled to be offered a suitable alternative vacancy (where one is available) in priority to other potentially redundant employees.

Pre-employment health questions

•  In most cases, a business is prohibited from asking potential recruits questions about their health (for example, businesses should avoid asking questions about an applicant’s sickness absence record).

•  However, there are some circumstances where a business is entitled to ask health-related questions.  For example, asking an applicant for a job in a warehouse whether they have any health problems that may prevent them from lifting or handling heavy items.  Businesses can also check whether an applicant has any special requirements it needs to take into account when making             the arrangements for interview, such as wheelchair access.

Part two will feature in the January issue of Employment Brief and will cover the interview, the offer, the contract and probationary periods.