The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has recently published a series of short guides and checklists for those who place and publish advertisements, in order to help them advertise in line with the Equality Act 2010. They have taken this step to address the fact that, in a little over a year, they received over a hundred complaints that adverts were discriminatory.
It also reflects their concern that “thousands of people could be at risk of being denied jobs and services each year due to unlawful, discriminatory adverts.”
The Equality Act 2010 does not, as some employers appear to believe, only start to operate once an employee has been hired. Employers also have a duty not to discriminate in the recruitment of employees, either directly or indirectly, because of a protected characteristic (such as age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation).
This duty applies not just to those (such as employers or service providers) who create and place advertisements, but also to those who publish them in print, online or in local shops. This means that both advertisers and publishers can be liable if a discriminatory advert is published.
Examples of complaints that the EHRC has received over the past year include “Sex or age discrimination by seeking 'young' or female workers, where this was not a necessary requirement for the job,” “Disability discrimination by a hotel advertising that it would not offer accommodation to disabled people,” and “Age discrimination by a recruitment agency stating that those over 45s need not apply.”
Although the guidance naturally highlights the dangers to employers whose advertisements or recruiting practices are found to be discriminatory, and provides a “good practice” checklist, it also emphasises that such employers may be doing themselves out of people with valuable skills. According to Rebecca Hilsenrath, the Chief Executive of the EHRC, “Tackling discrimination and ending confusion will not just help prevent businesses breaking the law – it will create more opportunities to unlock talent and help drive Britain's economic growth.”