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What’s the law around inclusive recruitment?

Written by: RICS Recruit
Published on: 28 Mar 2024

National and international legislation is mandating DEI

Inclusive Recruitment Law

With governments around the world increasingly legislating on inclusive recruitment, ensuring that HR and recruitment teams have a detailed knowledge of the laws that protect jobseekers’ rights and promote diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) should be a given.

A thorough understanding of the legal framework around inclusive hiring and employment, not just in the UK but globally, is crucial to making your vacancies appeal to the widest possible demographic. A poor job description and advert, a clumsily assembled application form or an illegal question at interview stage could lay you open to a complaint or legal action  ̶ and put the company’s reputation at risk.

Inclusive recruitment helps business reflect society

Inclusive recruitment is a hiring process that focuses on creating equitable opportunities for all candidates, regardless of their background, gender, race or disability, which promotes diversity of thinking and experience, fosters innovation and ensures fair and inclusive workplaces that reflect society more broadly.

Uniform international recruitment practice strengthens DEI

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has developed and published a standard on human resource management (HRM) that gives guidance on what is required to create a diverse and inclusive organisational culture, ISO 30415: 2021, to which most nations adhere.

Global HR specialist Lorelei Carobolante, who developed the HRM standard by leading a team of international experts from 14 countries, says: ‘Diversity and inclusion means the work environment is a mirror of society. When we notice a disparity between what society looks like and what the work environment looks like, there’s almost always an unresolved tension and a perception of unfairness.’

It is therefore crucial for businesses to prioritise inclusive recruitment practices that consider candidates of all races, genders and ethnicities to strengthen their workforce and promote DEI. This includes creating an inclusive culture that empowers diverse talent to think differently and share their experiences and perspectives, ultimately encouraging innovation, development and engagement within the organisation.

A defined standard adaptable to the needs of all types of organisation across different sectors around the world enables HR departments to benchmark the fundamental prerequisites for DEI, offers guidance on how to achieve these and provides measurable outcomes.

UK Equality Act aims to prevent discrimination

The UK Equality Act 2010 places DEI at the heart of hiring practices. This comprehensive framework not only combats discriminatory practices but actively fosters equitable workplaces.

The act should be consulted when conducting interviews and to align processes to achieve fairness and equity. Without those, efforts to create an in-house culture that embraces diversity will founder.

Safeguarding individuals from unfair treatment based on nine protected characteristics, the act addresses both direct and indirect discrimination, which are barriers that can prevent marginalised groups from achieving their full potential.

Legislation defines protected characteristics

It is against the law to discriminate against someone because of a protected characteristic, and the act brings together 116 separate pieces of legislation. At its core, it makes it illegal for interviewers or recruitment consultants to ask questions based on any of the following nine protected characteristics:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation.

Interviewees should also feel comfortable refusing to answer questions they consider irrelevant to the position, such as current salary, length of time in the country, birthplace or whether they have children.

RICS Recruit has produced a guide for candidates on the questions they should never be asked in an interview, and how to respond if they are. Hiring managers will also find this useful.

CIPD offers inclusive recruitment guidance

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is a global professional body for HR and people development. Its guide to inclusive recruitment for employers offers recommendations and case studies, covering everything from how to define the remit of a role to attract diverse candidates in the application process to selecting interviewees.

‘Recruitment can be a very subjective process, demanding that hiring managers make complex and high-stakes decisions, often in limited time,’ the guide says. ‘This … makes it particularly susceptible to unconscious biases, and there is strong evidence that marginalised groups face discrimination in recruitment.’

Global markets prescribe equitable approach to labour

Expectations of equity in global labour markets are beginning to become more uniform. Professional services network Deloitte offers an overview of employment law regulation, including DEI, in 64 countries. Each has its complexities and distinctive characteristics, but there are increasing similarities in the way businesses large and small around the world approach DEI.

EU directive enforces equal treatment

Equity and access to recruitment for all candidates are enshrined in the EU’s Equal Treatment Directive, which follows almost identical guidelines to the UK.

This directive outlines a general framework for equal treatment in employment to combat discrimination in the labour market across EU member states. But the same protected characteristics apply as far afield as Australia, under various pieces of legislation.

US legislation covers inclusive recruitment

In the US, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Department of Labor (DOL) together provide an overview of the legislation on inclusive recruitment practices.

Orders in Hong Kong prevent discrimination

There are four anti-discrimination orders in Hong Kong, covering sex, disability, family status and race. There is no legal requirement for gender pay equity, though, with employers and employees free to negotiate and agree on the terms and conditions of work.

UAE laws protect various rights

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has laws that aim to prohibit discrimination on the basis of caste, race, religion or ethnic origin. There is also legislation protecting the rights of people with special needs and enforcing gender-based pay equity.

RICS Rules of Conduct govern all regulated firms

The RICS Rules of Conduct – which include welcome DEI guidelines – apply to every RICS-regulated business, operating out of 146 countries around the world, for the benefit of members and candidates.

Review rules to ensure your firm is compliant

While this article is not the right place for an in-depth discussion of the finer details of inclusive recruitment and employment law, it offers a starting point to find out more about the rules your organisation must adhere to in the recruitment process.

By understanding and adhering to the UK Equality Act or other applicable legislation as well as ISO’s HRM standard, recruiters can build an internationally resilient process that not only complies with legal obligations but also encourages an environment where diversity is valued.