Discrimination payouts could rise unless employers change their ways

Mar 04 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Discrimination payouts could rise unless employers change their recruitment practices says new Work Foundation survey.

UK organisations could be leaving themselves open to discrimination payouts of millions of pounds from job seekers, according to new figures on the jobs’ market published by The Work Foundation.

Even though sex discrimination payouts have recently passed the £2 million mark, The Work Foundation found that one third of responding organisations were failing to monitor the diversity of external job applicants – a simple but important procedure that can spotlight areas of discrimination, and save recruiters millions in tribunal claims. Monitoring is recommended as a way of identifying possible bias.

The Work Foundation report, based on responses from 468 HR specialists, also highlights the tendency amongst many organisations to encourage word of mouth job applicants.

Just over a quarter (27 per cent) of respondents say they have a policy of actively encouraging employees to recommend friends and just under a quarter (22 per cent) do the same with family members.

Advisory bodies warn that although this may be economical, it is likely to lead to a much smaller pool of suitable applicants and does not normally satisfy equal opportunities requirements because it tends to perpetuate any imbalance in the workforce. The Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission both warn against word of mouth recruitment where the workforce is predominantly one sex or racial group.

And despite skills shortages, few organisations target less obvious labour pools. Thirty-three percent of firms target women returners, but very few firms aim for applicants from among the over 50s, the long-term unemployed, ex-offenders, people with long-term health problems, people who have had mental health problems and refugees.

Theo Blackwell, policy specialist at The Work Foundation, says: “Business opportunities as well as the requirements of employment law are pushing diversity up the ladder of workplace issues. More practically, companies should also recognise the benefits of widening their choice of job applicants, and the business opportunities that recruiting from the widest possible pool of talent can bring.”

Key Findings

  • The local press is the favourite way of attracting external applicants: 85 per cent advertise in the local press, 75 per cent use recruitment agencies, 68 per cent use the national press, 63 per cent job centres, 56 per cent the trade press and 55 per cent the internet.
  • Radio, community letters and community groups are the least popular at 11 per cent, 10 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.
  • 41 per cent of organisations advertise all vacancies internally first.
  • Almost half (47 per cent) of the organisations accepting word of mouth recommendations do not monitor for race, sex or age.
  • Organisations are more likely to monitor for race and sex than they are for age.

    34 per cent or companies target women-returners, 23 per cent target job-sharers, 18 per cent mature, recently qualified graduates, 17 per cent target the over-fifties. Few encourage applications from ex-offenders (5 per cent), people with long-term health problems (4 per cent) or refugees (3 per cent).

  • Few job ads give information about the employer’s ethical stance. Only 24 per cent of companies include this.
  • Applicants are fairly likely to have their appearance and body language assessed. 40 per cent of companies ask interviewers to assess appearance and 32 per cent ask interviewers to assess nerves.
  • Psychometric testing remains popular with 54 per cent of organisations.