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Warning of alarming bias in recruitment of ethnic minority job candidates

Ethnic minority job applicants face shocking levels of discrimination in the job market according to a recent survey, leading to calls for employers to take action.

The study, carried out by the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, University of Oxford, based on a number of fictitious job applicants from ethnic minority backgrounds, found that they had to send on average 60% more job applications than white candidates of British origin to receive only the same level of interest from employers.

Black British people and applicants from Middle East and North African (MENA) countries were found to be most heavily penalised, having to send 80% more applications than their white British counterparts before receiving a positive response. These fictitious applications even stated that the applicants were either British-born or had arrived in the country by the age of six and were educated and trained in Britain (so as to specifically eliminate any employers’ concerns about poor English language fluency or recognition of qualifications from other countries).

It is unlawful discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 not to offer employment to a job applicant because of their race or their perceived race. It is also unlawful to discriminate in the recruitment process.

Take action now

Failing to consider job applications from potentially suitable applicants does not make business sense and puts employers at risk of tribunal claims and reputational damage. The latter will be a particular risk if the Government implements its current proposals to require employers of a certain size to publish figures on their ethnic pay gaps. Some companies have already started to report on these figures voluntarily.

Bias can be overt or unconscious and greater objectivity in the recruitment process to overcome race or other discrimination, will be achieved by measures such as:

  • Drafting job descriptions / specifications setting out your business requirements for the role;
  • Using anonymised application forms or CVs that are discrimination ‘neutral’ and do not require details like names, date of births or photographs;
  • Ensuring recruitment agencies have a copy of your equal opportunity policy and comply with it.

For further information regarding the above topic or any other employment law queries please contact Elizabeth Maxwell, Solicitor in our Employment department in our Redhill office either by email [email protected] or by phone 01737 854 501


Although correct at the time of publication, the contents of this newsletter/blog are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute, legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article. Please contact us for the latest legal position.

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