Four things you shouldn’t see in a job advert

A lot has been written about dealing with discrimination in the workplace…

However, less may be known about what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to the start of the jobseeking process – within the job adverts and job descriptions themselves.

We’ve already covered what you should and shouldn’t be asked at an interview. Here are a few things you shouldn’t see in a job ad:

Discrimination in job adverts

Many businesses have policies in place which are designed to help prevent discrimination within the workplace. However, the guidelines also apply when it comes to attracting the right employees for their vacancies.

As a general guideline, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against anyone, both at work and in job adverts, based on the following nine protected characteristics:

  • sex
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • disability
  • age
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • sexual orientation
  • gender reassignment

Below are some more specific examples of what should not be written in a job advert…

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Sex discrimination

An employer can’t show a preference to hire someone of a particular sex without a genuine occupational requirement. Without one, any language in the job advert relating to sex preference could be viewed as discriminatory.

Even with seemingly good intentions from a recruiter (such as trying to even up the split of sexes the office, for example), favouring a man or woman for a particular role is generally not acceptable.

There are exceptions to this rule, of course, and some positions may call for candidates of a particular sex (Care Assistants, Support Workers, for example). However, unless there is a genuine occupational requirement for this to be the case, an employer should always avoid expressing a preference when it comes to your sex.

Racial or religious discrimination

Employers are required by law to check a candidate’s eligibility to work in the UK.

However, no terminology used by a recruiter should state that they are looking to hire a candidate of a particular race or nationality unless, as with gender, there is a genuine occupational requirement. Religion is similarly off-limits for the majority of job advertisements.

Some job ads fall foul of this simply down to a poor choice of terminology. It’s fine for a job advert to ask for you to be a German-speaking Account Manager, for example. However, a recruiter searching for a German Account Manager, or a native speaker of German, would be frowned upon.

Age discrimination

As with gender and race, employers should not refer to their ideal applicant’s age.

This includes both seeking applicants who are ‘young’ and advertising a role asking for a number of years’ experience.

Rather than asking for a certain amount of experience or years spent in the position as a pre-requisite, employers should be focussing on the required skills. After all, jobseekers with 10 years’ experience can differ greatly in terms of their abilities.

Unless it’s to determine whether an applicant is over a certain age (allowing someone to sell alcohol, for example), recruiters should keep all age-related terminology to a minimum.

Disability discrimination

Any language relating to physical abilities, unless they are completely necessary for the job, should be avoided in a job ad.

Examples of this could include job descriptions searching for ‘active’ or ‘athletic’ applicants (if not valid requirements for the role) or candidates holding a valid driving licence (once again, if this is not a pre-requisite).

Final thoughts

Although many of these examples are not prohibited, in some cases they could potentially be considered discriminatory.

As a general guideline, any language relating to age, race, gender, sexuality, disability, pregnancy/maternity, religion or marital status should be avoided by employers. Unless, of course, they are genuine requirements for the job.

If they are specific to the role in question, it may not be inappropriate for them to be included in a job ad. To learn more, information is available about occupational requirements.

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Please note, the information outlined above is intended for general guidance purposes only. For more information on what should or shouldn’t be written, visit the ACAS website

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