Running a fair and inclusive recruitment process during the pandemic

5 minute read
05 November 2020


The recent extension of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has come as a relief to employers and staff alike, if somewhat late in the day.

However, industry reports make it clear that whilst redundancies may be delayed, they are still expected in the short to medium term. The labour market has already been flooded with those already made redundant since the spring, as their contracts have not been renewed or their temporary work has dried up. It seems highly likely that despite the extra government support, there will be many more job seekers joining their ranks as winter approaches.

One knock on effect of this is that employers in sectors facing increasing demand who need to recruit face a fresh challenge - how to manage the recruitment process effectively and fairly when there are likely to be record numbers of people applying for the jobs advertised? Channel 4's Dispatches revealed that one advert for a minimum wage position in a Manchester restaurant returned 947 applicants from the hospitality, entertainment and transport sectors – 947 against the 'normal' return of 30.

Here are some practical and legal accessibility points to consider, to help focus the minds of recruiting teams, save time later on and mitigate against discrimination risks:

Planning - what do you need and how could it be delivered?

  • Think carefully what the job and requirements are. Where you can, be specific about the role requirements and the skills you need. Test the draft advert with your recruitment team/colleague(s) to ensure you've got the right points across.
  • Document the business need for the role(s) you are advertising, so that this is clear internally.
  • Think about where and how you advertise the role(s). Are the platforms/methods you plan to use accessible to everyone, or are certain groups inadvertently excluded?
  • Many employers are now using 'blind' assessments, to reduce the risk of prejudice on the grounds of gender, gender assignment, nationality, ethnic background, age, disabilities, etc. Can you do this too?
  • Many jobs can be done from home and will need to be going forwards for some time. Can you support flexible working to enable applicants with caring responsibilities and disabilities, for example, to do the work?

Designing the application process

  • Use plain English, in a simple font and structure. Might the language you use put some applicants off (e.g. gendered language or implicit stereotypical assumptions)?
  • Accessibility and flexibility: if the application process includes digital assessment, is that accessible to applicants who are deaf/blind/dyslexic or neuro-diverse, such as Asperger's? If assessments are timed, consider whether this puts those with disabilities at a disadvantage and if so, what other options would work.
  • Algorithms are not free from bias. What knowledge do you have over the assumptions made in the mechanics of the assessment?
  • Bear in mind that if your questions come as a surprise to applicants (as a way of testing them), this could disadvantage applicants with certain disabilities.
  • Remind applicants to ask for reasonable adjustments to the interview process if needed.
  • Only ask for the personal data you really need and only share with the interview assessor(s) as necessary to avoid them being influenced by irrelevant protected characteristics (gender, gender reassignment, disability etc)

Who will screen applications and/or conduct interviews?

  • Try and plan for the same assessment team for consistency of approach. Do the team fully understand the role they are assessing applicants' suitability against? Is the scoring process clear and objective?
  • Have they had equalities training?
  • If conducting interviews by Zoom, Teams etc, try to minimise distractions and surrounding noise, to make it easier for those with hearing loss or conditions such as Asperger's.

The candidate experience

  • If you cannot respond to every applicant to give them feedback, consider setting up an automated email that acknowledges their application and time. Some people will have to apply for tens or even hundreds of jobs and it can be a punishing, demoralising process. Being human about it and sending, even a short response, may make them more likely to consider you for future employment when the economy picks up.

Keep a paper trail

  • Make sure you keep a record of who is called for interview and who isn't, and why. Claims of discrimination are not uncommon where the same person has submitted two identical CVs except for personal details about their gender, ethnicity or disability. You need to be able to show objectively, why you decided to recruit A and not B. This is even more important now, when the delay in tribunal claims being processed means hearings can be listed a year after the claim is filed. By that point, the hiring manager/interview assessors may no longer be employed by you or if they are, may not be able to remember why they made the decision they did at the time. The greater number of applicants there are, the harder that job becomes, making the paper trail even more important.

Our Employment, Labour & Equalities team would be happy to help with getting the process as slick as possible.

NOT LEGAL ADVICE. Information made available on this website in any form is for information purposes only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. You should not rely on, or take or fail to take any action based upon this information. Never disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking legal advice because of something you have read on this website. Gowling WLG professionals will be pleased to discuss resolutions to specific legal concerns you may have.