RECRUITING staff is an expensive business. Getting it wrong can be even more expensive. Just how expensive is highlighted by a recent Employment Tribunal case.
Ms Crilly applied for the position of neighbourhood regeneration officer.
Applicants were required to have two years’ relevant paid experience gained within the last five years.
Ms Crilly had not worked in paid employment for six years due to child care responsibilities but did have extensive voluntary experience in community development and neighbourhood regeneration.
When she applied for the job, she was not short-listed and therefore submitted an employment tribunal claim for sex discrimination.
Ms Crilly argued that the requirement for applicants to have paid work experience constituted indirect sex discrimination of women.
The employer argued that the requirement for paid experience was needed for legitimate business reasons.
The project manager and two regeneration officers had left and the employer needed someone who could begin work immediately with minimal training and supervision.
The tribunal held that the five-year requirement had a disproportionate adverse impact on women.
This was evidenced by the results of a survey which showed 90.6% of people who were economically inactive due to family commitments were women.
The tribunal therefore drew the inference that women who were otherwise suitably qualified were discouraged from applying and were disproportionately adversely affected compared to men.
The five-year requirement put Ms Crilly at a disadvantage because she was denied the opportunity to be interviewed and was not appointed.
The tribunal also held that the five-year requirement was not proportionate.
The need to employ someone who could do the job without extensive training was not necessarily met by a requirement that allowed a potential three-year gap since a candidate’s last paid employment.
The tribunal accepted Ms Crilly’s argument that there should have been flexibility so as to enable people who could demonstrate extensive unpaid relevant experience a chance to be tested at interview.
The tribunal awarded Mrs Crilly £14,677 compensation for loss of earnings and injury to feelings.
The message therefore has to be – think long and hard about job criteria and take legal advice.
:: Barry Hutchinson, associate, Gordon Brown Law Firm LLP. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: 0191 389 5185