How to minimise discrimination risks during recruitment

Last updated: August 9th, 2023

First published: August 9th 2023
Last updated: August 9th 2023

It’s important for employers to remember that Ireland’s employment equality laws protect not only employees but also candidates involved in a recruitment process.

The Employment Equality Acts prohibit employers from treating one person less favourably than another on the basis of nine protected characteristics.

Managers and HR personnel involved in the recruitment process must therefore be familiar with the following nine grounds set out in the employment equality legislation:

  • age
  • gender
  • civil status
  • sexual orientation
  • religion
  • race
  • disability
  • family status, and
  • membership of the Travelling community.

If your organisation is carrying out a recruitment process, follow these steps to avoid allegations of discrimination.

Don’t ask for information that could be used in a discrimination claim

At the early stages of the recruitment process, it’s common to seek some background information from applicants.

Remember not to seek any details that could lead to an allegation that you are fishing for information around age, race or family status for example.

It’s important that candidates are not asked to disclose any information that implies the recruiting organisation is trying to identify any of the nine characteristics mentioned above.

An effective way to reduce this risk is to ask for a blind CV. A blind CV includes only information about the candidate’s professional capabilities like academic or other relevant training, work experience and contact details.

Use an objective marking scheme

The selection criteria you use to select candidates for a job should be objective and ideally measurable. If you can show that your selection criteria are objective, based on facts, measurable and not based on the personal opinion of the hiring manager, you’ll minimise the risk of a discrimination claim.

A marking scheme is a good way to demonstrate that objective criteria were applied equally to all candidates. If there are any queries around how recruitment decisions were made, a clear marking scheme will show candidates were assessed based on objective metrics that were applied equally.

No inappropriate questions at interview stage

It may sound obvious, but the same principles apply at interview stage. Ensure that your interview questions don’t suggest that you’re trying to build a picture of the candidate’s identity.

Preparing a set list of interview questions that focus on objective selection criteria and sticking to them is the best way to avoid making unconscious errors at interview stage.

Keep good records

Job applicants who fail to land a job may seek details from the relevant employer about the selection process under the Data Protection Acts.

If a disgruntled job applicant makes a discrimination claim, you’ll need good records to prove that your selection was based on objective criteria and not a subjective opinion linked to one of the protected characteristics.

Your records should include the CVs you examined, the marking system you applied and any notes. In a discrimination claim, the claimant only needs to raise an inference of discrimination. Once the candidate establishes a prima facie case, the burden of proof then shifts to the employer to demonstrate that no discrimination occurred.

Keeping good records of how each application was treated and the objective criteria upon which decisions were made will ensure that your organisation is in a good position to defend any allegations of unfair treatment that could arise.

Give feedback

A good way to minimise discrimination risks around recruitment is to provide feedback to all candidates who were not successful specifying the objective metrics that eliminated them from consideration.

This will provide clear information to the disappointed candidates on why their application was unsuccessful.

Expert HR guidance on discrimination risks with Graphite

A discrimination claim can be a costly distraction for business owners. It can eat up your time, money and damage your reputation.

If you are found to have discriminated against an external candidate, you could be ordered to award compensation of up to €13,000.

Speak with a Graphite HR expert today for assistance with this or any employment concerns facing your organisation on 01 886 0350.

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