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30 September 2014

Recruitment - best practice for employers

Most employers will need to recruit a new member of staff at some stage, either because an employee has left and they need to replace them or because they are expanding. Finding the right person can be tricky but employers need to follow a fair selection procedure to reduce the risk of allegations of discrimination.

This article looks at the steps you should take and sets out some guidance for best practice.  If you use a recruitment agency, some of these tips will not apply directly but it is helpful to understand the process and some of the issues that can arise.

Discrimination and recruitment

Discrimination law covers all areas of employment, including advertising jobs and recruitment.  This means that an individual can bring a claim for discrimination on various grounds linked to recruitment, if they believe they have been treated less favourably because of sex, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity leave, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief and age.  There is no limit on the amount of compensation payable if an employer loses a discrimination case.  It is important to bear this in mind when you are recruiting and to ensure that all staff involved in the recruitment process receives training in equal opportunities.  This will help you to defend any claims and you should keep a record of the training that managers have received.  You should also keep a record of all decisions made during the recruitment process and the reasons for them, in case you have to justify a decision later.

Step 1 - advertising

Before advertising a vacancy, it is good practice to write a job description and a person specification, which will be sent to candidates with a standard application form.  The job description includes the main tasks associated with the role. The person specification covers the qualifications, experience and skills needed to do the job.  Ensure that you can justify the requirements objectively and that they do not discriminate against any particular group.  For example, a requirement to work full-time – where the job could be done on a part-time basis - may discriminate against women with childcare responsibilities; a requirement to have a driving licence may discriminate against some disabled candidates, if their disability means they are unable to drive but they could still do the job.  It is also sensible to consider how flexible you can be in relation to your requirements. For example, is home-working an option?  What about job-sharing?

You then need to write an advertisement and decide where it will be placed.  Best practice is to advertise all vacancies both internally and externally unless there are good reasons not to, such as where existing employees are at risk of redundancy.  In this case, you need to consider what alternative employment is available for them so you should give them the opportunity to apply for any vacancies before advertising them externally.  You should use different publications so that you reach the widest possible range of applicants and do not inadvertently exclude some groups.  You should also consider whether you will use social media as part of your campaign and, if so, how.

It is best to ask candidates to submit a standard application form so that they all answer the same questions and do not send you personal information, such as in relation to age or a disability, that could lead them to allege you have discriminated against them.  If you ask applicants to complete an equal opportunities monitoring form, this should be kept separate from the application form when you receive it.

Step 2 - shortlisting

If you receive a large number of applications, you will need to draw up a shortlist for interviews.  You should have a set of selection criteria based on the job description and person specification and you should mark candidates against these criteria in order to decide who to interview.

Step 3 - interviewing

It is best practice to have at least two managers carrying out the interviews.  Before they take place, the interviewers should agree a list of questions to ask the candidates.  This means that all candidates are asked the same questions and their answers can be scored.  A note should be kept of the questions and answers.  Candidates should not be asked any questions about their personal lives and no assumptions should be made based on their personal circumstances. For example, you should not assume that a single mother will be unable to finish work late or travel on business.  It is better to ask open, rather than closed, questions so that candidates have a wider opportunity to talk about themselves.

You may need to carry out second interviews, ideally with two or more different managers, before you decide which candidate is most suitable for the role.

Step 4 – offering the job

You should send a written offer to the successful candidate.  This will set out the main terms such as the job title, days and hours of work, place of work, details of pay and other benefits and whether there is a probationary period.  It is normal to state that the offer is subject to you receiving satisfactory references and proof that the candidate has the right to live and work in the UK.  In some cases, you may wish to ask for proof of qualifications and a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.  You may also ask the candidate to undergo a medical or complete a medical questionnaire.  You should ensure that all of these checks have been successfully completed before the candidate joins you.  You should enclose two copies of a contract of employment with the offer letter; the candidate should sign and return one copy and keep the other.

If one of these conditions is not met, for example, the references are unsatisfactory or the candidate fails to return the medical questionnaire or refuses to provide a DBS check, you may be able to withdraw the offer. You should take legal advice first in order to reduce the risk of a discrimination claim.

You should notify the other candidates that they have been unsuccessful.  If they ask for feedback, ensure that it is objective.

Step 5 – induction

When the new employee starts work, you should obtain their P45 and emergency contact details before taking them through your policies and procedures, setting objectives and organising any necessary training.  If there is a probationary period, diarise a review at the end of it and inform the employee of the outcome.

If you have any queries in relation to recruiting a new employee or if you would like us to provide a contract of employment, please call a member of the employment law team at B P Collins LLP on 01753 279029 or email employmentlaw@bpcollins.co.uk.

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Email: enquiries@bpcollins.co.uk

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