Creating a diverse workforce without crossing into discrimination is hard thing to balance.
In this article, we’ll look at unconscious bias and its role in recruitment, also the impact on diversity and discrimination. We’ll touch on some legal points and what protected characteristics to be mindful of in a recruitment context.
Challenge of Recruiting a Diverse Workforce
The primary issue for recruiters is a potential narrowing of the talent pool when we put a emphasis on diversity.
This narrowing arises due to unequal access to training, education and skills development across different groups of people. This inequality often results in a talent pool where some groups will be underrepresented, making the recruitment of a diverse workforce a challenge.
Unconscious bias refers to an often unintentional judgment that individuals make about others. Often based on their background, appearance, and societal stereotypes.
In recruitment, having unconscious bias will influence decision making, which is a major barrier when wanting diversity.
For instance, a recruiter may unknowingly favor people who’ve graduated from certain universities or come from a specific region, or more often simply have strong stereotype characteristics that align with that particular job role.
Protected characteristics are a fundamental criteria in promoting and preventing discrimination in recruitment.
The UK’s Equality Act 2010 outlines protected characteristics that are essential for employers to respect. Which include age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy/maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.
The legislation states “It is against the law to discriminate against anyone because of” theses protected characteristics. Also, that individuals are protected from discrimination at work for them.
On gov.uk, we learn that direct discrimination, meaning, “treating someone with a protected characteristic less favourably than others”. Is a point that needs respecting during recruitment. The gov.uk guide goes on to state that it can also be lawful to have specific rules or arrangements in place, so long as they can be justified.
In certain scenarios within recruitment, exceptions allow employers to lawfully consider protected characteristics during the hiring process. These exceptions, known as “occupational requirements,” enable employers to apply specific rules or conditions so long as they can be justified as being essential for the job or tasks.
Practical examples for some of these:
Gender: A domestic violence shelter specifically for women, hiring a female support worker would be considered a GOR (Genuine Occupational Requirement). Due to the sensitive nature of this work, coupled with the vulnerability of the service users, it may necessitate a female worker for the shelter’s residents to feel safe.
Religion: A religious school might require teachers to practice the religion of the institution. The requirement could be justified by the need to maintain the religious ethos of the school and ensure the curriculum is delivered accurately.
Age: In the entertainment industry, roles such as acting or modelling often require age to meet the artistic requirements of the performance or portrayal.
Language: Roles such as translators or community liaisons require fluid speaking in a specific language – something that is often tied to an individual’s ethnic or nationality.
Employers and recruiters invoking GOR must ensure that such requirements are reasonable, justifiable, and directly related to the requirements of the job.