2 min read

How to avoid discrimination during the recruitment process

By Joanna Weekes

Part of a new year for many businesses is to recruit new workers to fill gaps in the workforce, so if this is part of your business plan, today’s bulletin is relevant to you.

Health and safety legislation in every jurisdiction imposes a general duty on you as an employer to protect the health, safety and welfare of your workers, this includes doing everything reasonably practicable to prevent or reduce the risk of discrimination in your workplace.

You must have steps in place to monitor, manage and report on the prevention of discrimination in your workplace – including during the recruitment process.

Discrimination during the recruitment process

Recruiting and selecting the most appropriate person for a job is a complex task which requires trained staff who are aware of anti-discrimination laws and guidelines.

Discrimination is treating a person less favourably than another person or group in the same circumstances. There are many ways that an employee or job candidate can be subject to unlawful discrimination, including being treated unfairly due to the following protected attributes:

  • age;
  • race;
  • sex or gender identity;
  • disability or impairment;
  • criminal record;
  • religious or political belief or activity;
  • parental status; or
  • sexuality or sexual orientation.

All decisions you make about employees or job candidates must be based on the specific requirements of the role and not on assumptions about the person because they possess a protected attribute.

How can discrimination during recruitment occur and how can you reduce it?

Discrimination during the recruitment process occurs mainly during job advertising and the interview process.

Write job advertisements which do not state, or even imply, that the job is restricted to people on the basis of a personal attribute. Avoid language relating to specific attributes, e.g. age or gender.

During the interview process, you cannot request information from a candidate if:

  • you plan to use that information to unlawfully discriminate against a candidate or employee; or
  • you ask for that information from candidates or employees with a protected attribute, but not from people who do not have the protected attribute.

Federal anti-discrimination legislation allows you to ask a candidate for information relating to a protected attribute provided you need that information to comply with workplace health and safety standards.

Remember, using recruitment agencies does not remove your responsibility during the recruitment process. Make it clear in the brief you provide to the recruitment agency that it must comply with equal opportunity practices and use selection methods that are non-discriminatory to meet the needs of your business.

Sometimes pre-employment tests are used to assess candidates. You must ensure that these test scores, e.g. literacy, numeracy, medical and psychometric testing scores, relate specifically to the job criteria and performance required for the role the candidate is applying for.

Please note the information provided here not all you need to know about discrimination in the workplace and how to manage it. It is a complex subject and one which employers and human resource managers need to be familiar with. Please refer to chapter Discrimination in your Health & Safety Handbook.

In the next Health & Safety Bulletin we’ll provide you with a checklist on how to avoid discrimination during the interview process.

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