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Are Employers 'living in the dark ages' when recruiting women?

View profile for Kim Hayton
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Most Employers would say that they are not, but recent statistics* from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) show that this could be the case.

The survey conducted by YouGov on behalf of EHRC was to understand managers’ attitudes around pregnancy and maternity discrimination.  Over 1000 senior business decision makers were surveyed with a third thinking it was reasonable to ask women about their future plans to have children during the recruitment process.

Almost 60% felt a woman should disclose if she was pregnant during recruitment and 46% thought it reasonable to ask women if they had a young family at the point of recruitment.

Pregnancy & Maternity and Sex are two of the Protected Characteristics covered under the Equality Act 2010 and as such it is unlawful for an employer to treat a:

  • Woman unfavourably because of her pregnancy or a related illness
  • Woman unfavourably because she is on or because she is exercising or seeking to exercise, or has exercised or sought to exercise the right to maternity leave
  • Job applicant or employee less favourably than others because of their sex

Employers may not realise the implications, but if they ask an applicant these types of questions and then don’t offer them a job, under the Equality Act they could bring a discrimination claim to an employment tribunal.  The outcome for a successful claim could include a compensation award for injury to feelings and if the applicant can argue successfully that they would have got the job if it wasn’t for the discrimination, then potentially they will be in a position to claim for loss of earnings.

Kim says: “there are two key points raised in this survey to take note of.  The first is, in order not to miss out on recruiting and retaining talent in your workforce, businesses need to take a good look at their equality policies and ensure that they are put into practice. 

The second point is that it is important that ALL managers involved in the recruitment process understand the businesses stance and the law around equality as ultimately they are acting on behalf of the employer.  If a claim was brought against the business, ignorance is not an excuse.  The employee involved in making the decision may also be liable themselves.

Businesses should protect themselves against potential liability issues, by ensuring that there is comprehensive training available explaining the benefits of Diversity & Equality in the workplace and ensuring that there are robust polices in place covering equality, bullying and harassment.”

FDR HR provide policy checks and tailored Diversity & Equality training.  For further information, contact Kim Hayton or Kerry Mercer on 01925 230000.

*the report ‘Employers in the dark ages over recruitment of pregnant women and new mothers’ from EHRC was published in February 2018