How to handle prejudice clients

How to handle prejudice clients
How to handle prejudice clients

posted 03 Nov 23

We caught up with an Internal Recruitment Manager at Search to find out what recruitment consultants can do to navigate handling prejudiced clients and bring awareness to the different types of discrimination.

What constitutes a prejudiced client?

In the world of recruitment, encountering a client who is prone to discriminate, unfortunately can still happen, with some forms of discrimination being unintentional.

While clients may have a tendency to discriminate based on their own personal bias, that may not have been illegal under employment law, recruitment consultants need to be aware of discriminatory practices that could hold them liable as representatives.

"The Equality Act 2010 prohibits employer discrimination - on the basis of a candidate's age, gender, race, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, religion and belief, sexual orientation - at any point in the recruitment process. As such, recruitment consultants have to be extra mindful of how they facilitate the screening and selection process, right down to the very words they use in a job ad," Peter advises.

Protected characteristics and recruitment discrimination

If an employer refuses to hire an individual due to their race and ethnic background, this demonstrates racial bias in recruitment - a practice which is grounds for a racial discrimination claim.

When a recruiter is advertising a position for a client, they should not suggest that they are looking for a candidate within a certain age bracket. The following phrases could be perceived as ‘ageism’ because they articulate eligibility based on age: 10 years’ experience, enthusiastic young people, or recent graduate. However, consultants are legally permitted to request date of birth if they are recruiting for a role requiring candidates to be age 18+.

Despite steps made towards equal treatment of candidates, gender disparity in recruitment and employment is still a widespread problem throughout the world. In the UK, it is illegal to discriminate against candidates if they have taken a career break to focus on family commitments.

An example of this is the case of Ms Crilly who was not shortlisted after applying for the post of Neighbourhood Regeneration Officer with the Ballymagroarty Hazelbank Community Partnership. The essential criterion for the position was a ‘third level qualification in a relevant discipline with two years' relevant experience in a community development capacity (paid) gained within the last five years. Although Ms Crilly had not earned a salary for six years due to childcare responsibilities, she had extensive high-level voluntary involvement in community development and neighbourhood regeneration. When she was not shortlisted for the post, she claimed that the paid work experience requirement constituted indirect sex discrimination.

The tribunal found a huge disparity between the sexes, from which the panel inferred that a vastly larger percentage of women than men are away from work to look after family and home. They also found that there was particular disadvantage suffered by women and that Ms Crilly herself had suffered personal disadvantage. They ruled in her favour, and awarded her £5,000 for injury to feelings and, when her actual and future loss was taken into account, she received a sum of £11,677.

A candidate can also lay a discrimination claim if they feel that they have been treated unfairly based on any one of the following protected characteristics:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender Reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion or belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation

How to handle discrimination from a prejudiced client

Although some instances of discrimination are unintentional, anybody responsible for recruiting within their organisation must proactively and consciously identify and eliminate biases that would discriminate against someone. Whether intentional or not, the act of discrimination resulting in unfair treatment of somebody is unlawful.

As a recruitment agency, it is our job to challenge prejudice to avoid candidates discriminated against and to hold those responsible accountable for their actions. For advice handling prejudiced clients, we recommend the following three tips:

Advise the employer to review their recruitment policies and procedures  

Check that all recruitment related materials and processes are up to date and in line with discrimination laws. This may involve removing or editing wording within person specifications, reviewing selection testing methods to remove bias, or providing interview training to managers to ensure they are aware of the questions that can and cannot be asked. Blind recruitment, for example, has become a popular method to reduce recruitment bias and discrimination.

Advise the employer to keep focused on skills and experience 

It should go without saying, but the recruitment process should be centred on assessing applicants’ skills, capabilities, and experience. Vague selection criteria can also result in unconscious bias, for example if individuals make choices based on intuition rather than objective and non-discriminatory criteria. Assessment criteria should be well-defined and provide the factual information required to demonstrate a candidate’s abilities and suitability.

Advise the employer to tackle unconscious bias

Taking a proactive approach to unconscious bias can be extremely beneficial in improving diversity, inclusion, and equality. In the recruitment process in particular, interviewer bias may be impacting candidate selection through unintended preferences or prejudices towards certain people based on shared associations, such as age, gender, sexuality, disability, ethnicity, or body size. Training anyone with recruitment responsibilities to raise awareness of these unconscious associations or assumptions will help overcome these in practice.

Work with us

Are you an experienced recruiter looking for your next role? Search is a nationwide recruitment agency that provides opportunities across 15 specialisms. If you feel you would be an ideal addition to our team, please take a look at some of the internal roles we have available.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a recruitment agency who understands the importance of diversity and equality, and can coach you and your team on how to reduce discrimination risks and promote equality, contact our team today.