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Discrimination in recruitment that could land employers in court

James Potts, Director of Legal Services - Peninsula

One post took the Twittersphere by storm this week – for all the wrong reasons. A jobseeker shared an image of a letter she received when was turned down for a job at an undisclosed company.

The applicant was told did not get the job because of her ’strong Welsh accent’ and ‘regional activities’ which ‘would not suit the office environment’. This despite them saying she ‘performed very well throughout’ the interview, and her ‘skill set would reflect well in the role’.

Thousands of people took to Twitter to show their support, with many accusing the company of direct discrimination. While this case may certainly demonstrate bias in recruitment, did the company involved act illegally?

James Potts, Director of Legal Services at Peninsula, explains: “Job applicants certainly have the ability to raise claims of discrimination to the employment tribunal if they feel the recruitment process placed them at a disadvantage compared to their peers due to a protected characteristic they hold.

“Employers should never make assumptions about a person’s capabilities based on their accent, or any other factors which are not related to their experience, qualifications, knowledge, and skills.

“Would this claim be a successful one? Well, it depends entirely on the circumstances of the case.

“Being Welsh is classed as a racial group – as is English and Scottish – meaning a race discrimination claim could be raised if the individual was treated less favourably for their national origins.

“Based on this, it’s possible this jobseeker could claim she was subject to race discrimination, since her accent was the main reason for her not being hired.

“But there are limitations. This argument would only hold up if she was applying for a job within a non-Welsh firm. She wouldn’t be able to argue accent discrimination if the role she was applying for was with a Welsh company or based in Wales.

“The best course of action for an employer when it comes to recruitment, to avoid any possibility of such claims, is to always have objective selection criteria. This ensures each candidate is scored based on their merits alone, reducing the risk of unconscious bias or discrimination. Employers should strongly consider adopting this as part of their recruitment strategy.”


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