Recruiting a new employee can hold many pitfalls for an employer. Employers need to follow best practice at every stage to ensure that they treat candidates consistently and fairly.
Typical claims include discrimination in relation to the recruitment process the employer follows, the terms offered or a failure to make an offer. Other claims could include breach of data protection principles and breach of contract.
This checklist provides tips to help recruit effectively and provides a basic route map for the recruitment process.
- Make sure everyone involved in the recruitment process has had up to date equal opportunities training.
- Check that any current equal opportunities policy or recruitment policy are followed.
- Make sure your selection processes are fair, open and transparent.
- Be careful not to indirectly discriminate. Are requirements for specific qualifications, working hours, travel, age ranges or dress necessary for the job?
- Put in place a data protection policy to deal with information gathered at all stages of the recruitment process (see our Data Protection Checklist).
- Ensure any questions in application forms are relevant and tailored to the specific job. For example, only request information on criminal convictions where this is relevant and necessary for the role.
- Work to a standard interview process on all applicants – e.g. telephone screen, psychometric test, first interview, second interview.
- Assess each candidate against a person specification, not against the other candidates.
- If you have a candidate with a disability, make any adjustments they need at the interview to help them compete fairly. Always ask, rather than make assumptions, about the reasonable adjustments that a disabled person might require.
- Create a paper trail. Keep notes during the recruitment process (e.g. during interviews) but be aware that these notes may constitute personal data and would be disclosable to an applicant as part of a subject access request.
- Make any offers in writing and set a time limit for acceptance (in writing).
Route map for recruitment
Identify the vacancy
This could be a completely new role or the replacement of an existing employee. Consider whether a new job description is required and whether:
- Any qualifications or specific skills are required
- The role is part time or full time
- The role could be performed through home working or job sharing
- It is a permanent or fixed term position.
Prepare the job description and person specification
The job description should:
- Use an appropriate job title
- Accurately describe the job
- Focus on outcomes
- Avoid specifying unnecessary working patterns e.g. regular Sunday working.
The person specification should describe the skills, knowledge, abilities, qualifications, experience and qualities that are required. Do not include health requirements unless absolutely necessary for the role e.g. a manual worker must be able to lift.
Advertise the vacancy
Do not discriminate in the job advert or through the content of the job application. Decide:
- Whether to advertise internally or externally – ensure there is a good reason if you decide to advertise internally only
- The means of advertising in order to ensure wide range of candidates reached (e.g. if only advertised online, older people may not see this)
- The content of the advertisement – ensure that the wording is not discriminatory e.g. by using gender neutral words where possible.
- Adopt a standardised process to ensure that there is no discrimination e.g. through use of application forms or CVs
- Provide and accept applications in accessible formats
- Ensure that any speculative applications are dealt with in the same way as other applications to ensure they are not dealt with in a discriminatory fashion.
Undertake equal opportunities monitoring
Ask for any equal opportunities monitoring information in a separate document. This can be used to monitor the diversity of applicants and interviewees. Remove this information prior to any short listing.
- Using more than one person to shortlist the individuals so that no unbalanced decisions are made
- Scoring key criteria in order to shortlist candidates – agree the criteria before the exercise is undertaken
- Whether written or psychometric tests can be used (reasonable adjustments may need to be made for disabled candidates).
- Consider whether an interview panel is appropriate or an individual manager
- Ensure all applicants are assessed objectively
- Be flexible about arrangements for interviews
- Consider timings and whether any adjustments are required. Ask the candidate in advance, and on the day, whether any adjustments are needed; and
- Avoid irrelevant questions e.g. about childcare or marriage plans.
Making an offer
Make any offer in writing. Confirm:
- The job title, any particular features (e.g. fixed term/part time) and salary
- Terms of employment and copy of any draft contract and employee handbook
- Any conditions which the offer is subject to (e.g. references, proof of right to work in UK, professional qualifications)
- Timescales for acceptance.
If the offer is withdrawn, always document the reasons in writing and consider whether there may be a potential breach of contract claim (if the offer has already been accepted) or discrimination or other claim.
And finally… keep records!
Keep a record of all stages of recruitment so that there is evidence to put in front of any tribunal hearing. Keep records of:
- the job description and person specification
- the criteria used for short listing
- interviews conducted (and any other tools e.g. testing or assessment centres)
- the reason why the successful candidate was selected
- the reason why other candidates were selected.
Remember when keeping records employers must comply with data protection principles. Personal information is covered by the Data Protection Act. An employer cannot collect certain sensitive data.
This note is a summary of the issues and is not a substitute for detailed legal advice. It may contain information of general interest about current legal topics, but it should not be taken as providing legal advice on any of the topics covered.