Watch where you advertise

Aug 21 2003 by Brian Amble Print This Article

The classified columns of The Lady, a genteel fixture in British publishing, have been regarded for decades as the place to find a nanny or housekeeper. But under tight new anti-discrimination laws an organisation or individual that advertises exclusively in the 118-year-old magazine could find themselves being sued for sex discrimination.

Another casualty of a tranche of legislation from Europe is likely to be the "old boy network". Restricting recruitment to internal candidates could break the law.

Both claims are made in a newly-revised book written by two employment law experts and published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD).

Authors Patricia Leighton and Giles Proctor, whose Recruiting within the Law is now in its third edition, warn that since The Lady flags itself as "Englandís oldest weekly magazine for women", male job candidates could effectively be excluded. Advertising jobs exclusively in male-orientated sporting magazines could also break the law by putting women at a disadvantage.

"Although the legislation isnít in its final form, you donít need a crystal ball to foresee the possible outcomes," said Proctor, a university principal lecturer in corporate and commercial law who is also a practising solicitor and expert in employment and business law.

British companies and organisations are facing several years of new anti-discrimination legislation that originates in Europe and must be incorporated into UK law. Sexual orientation, religion and belief and disability will become illegal grounds for discrimination by 2006. Direct and indirect sex discrimination laws come into effect in 2005.

Proctor and Leighton point out that the burden of proof of fair practice will shift to employers. This will include ensuring that jobs are advertised in media seen by both sexes and by all races. Employers could also find themselves in trouble if they ask for qualifications only available in the UK.

Leighton, Professor of European Law at Glamorgan University and a specialist in international and European employment law, said racial discrimination could take many forms. "Unless an employer can justify asking for UK qualifications, or qualifications in the English language, because they are vital to the job concerned, they shouldnít specify them," she said. "And if they pay interview expenses to candidates based in the UK they must also pay them to candidates based, for example, in Athens.

"The overall requirement of the law is transparency in the recruitment process, and it increasingly requires the decision-making process to be open and fair. Increasingly, the law is requiring decisions to be based on the qualifications, skills and experience of applicants, to the exclusion of background and personal characteristics."