FIGHTING DISCRIMINATION AT JOB INTERVIEW
Under the Equality Act you can serve a potential employer with a discrimination questionnaire if you suspect foul play – it might not solve the problem but it shines a spotlight on it.
A recent report by the all-party parliamentary group on race and community, focussing on black, Pakistani and Bangladeshi female workers, has uncovered racial discrimination and other barriers at the recruitment stage.
The inquiry also found that many job applicants of ethnic minority had changed their name or appearance to try to overcome prejudices – and when they did their scope for getting a job increased.
Of course, discrimination can take place not just because of your race. Your rights are set out in the Equality Act 2010 and an employer cannot discriminate on the basis of “protected characteristics” set out in the act, which include your race, sex, disability and sexual orientation.
But what are your legal rights if you think your prospective employer has discriminated against you at the interview stage, and what practical steps can you take?
Your first thought may be that although you have suspicions, it will be impossible to prove that prejudices have been the reason for you not getting an interview or being offered the job. There is, however, something you can do. An individual who thinks he or she has been discriminated against at interview stage is able to serve upon the employer a discrimination questionnaire under the Equality Act 2010, which allows them to effectively “grill” the employer about their treatment.
A questionnaire is most useful when you are not sure if there are sufficient grounds to bring a discrimination claim and need to elicit further information from the employer. The form already includes some standard questions such as asking the employer to what extent it agrees with your version of events; what their own version of events is; and if the employer accepts that the treatment of you was unlawful – and if they don’t, why not?
The form also has a blank box for you to ask additional questions. You could, for example, ask questions about the selection criteria used by the employer; exactly how the candidates were scored on those criteria; why you were rejected; and the reason the successful candidate was appointed. You are also able to obtain relevant statistical information about the employer such as a breakdown of its workforce or other job applicants by their ethnic profile.
Employers are not obliged to reply to a questionnaire, or a particular question raised, but if they do not or their answers are evasive – and this is very important – the tribunal may in any subsequent proceedings draw an inference that the employer has discriminated against them.
You may submit the questionnaire at any time, although certain time limits apply if you have already commenced tribunal proceedings, and the employer has up to eight weeks to respond.
Will the service of a discrimination questionnaire get you the job you weren’t offered in the first place? No, of course not. And it may not get you the next job either if it is discovered you have taken proceedings against a previous company for discriminating against you at interview stage.
But it is nevertheless a right of redress and may be an important tool for applicants who deserve to be offered a position based on their skills and qualifications, but have faced the prejudices of discriminating employers.
Have you felt you have been discriminated against when applying for a job? Did the employer say or do anything to confirm your suspicions?