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Discriminatory Advertising

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published guidance on how to avoid unlawful discrimination when advertising for jobs and services. This guidance provides a useful tool for recruiters to ensure that they do not discriminate against potential candidates, and therefore avoid legal action.

Discriminatory adverts are those which discriminate a person on the basis of a “protected characteristic” such as their age, race, or sexual orientation. Such adverts are prohibited under the Equality Act 2010.

The guidance states that both the publisher and advertiser of a discriminatory advert can be held responsible for discrimination in law. The EHRC provides the example, that “a free newspaper publishes an advert for a male forklift truck driver. This would constitute sex discrimination. The newspaper would be liable as the publisher of the advert, while the employer would be liable as the advertiser.”

The guidance details, through examples of both direct and indirect discrimination, when a job advert is discriminatory in nature. It also details ‘occupational requirements’, which are circumstances of exception in which an employer can require a job applicant or employee to have a particular characteristic if is reflects a genuine occupational requirement. The guidance provides the example of “an advert for a firefighter states that the applicants will have to take physical tests.”

The guidance is practical for recruiters, with steps to take to avoid publishing a discriminatory advert, and details of how best to deal with advert complaints. The FAQ section is broken down into specific questions relating to advertising employment opportunities, goods, facilities and services, and accommodation, in respect of each particular protected characteristic.

The guidance is available through the following three documents: guidance, checklist and FAQ.

This bulletin is for general guidance purposes only and should not be used for any other purpose.

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