Agencies told: review your recruitment NDAs now | UK Recruitment News

Refresh your existing NDAs and policies, recruiters warned.

This job listing requires more experience than is possible for one person to possess. But does the mistake expose an underlying recruitment bias?

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Recruitment law: Why you should refresh your NDAs

Clarifications on legal rights could impact existing agreements.

Recruiters should review existing non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) and policies relating to them, top legal experts say.

The advice follows government proposals to reshape the way NDAs are handled when reporting crimes and discrimination cases.

The proposals from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy will prevent NDAs conflicting with legal rights and obligations. These include instances where an employee has been subjected to sexual harassment, or been discriminated against.

Under the new guidelines, every employee that is subject to an NDA must also have access to independent legal advice. This measure aims to clarify the extent and limitations of NDAs to individuals before they are signed.

The new legal proposals were announced by Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst this week (March 4th). Should the proposals come in effect, NDAs will no longer be capable of preventing the reporting of a crime. While this may surprise many, some contracts are still used to suppress the disclosure of illegality such as fraud or personal abuse.

The Business Minister explained how the use of NDAs could be improved with these proposed clarifications.

“Many businesses use non-disclosure agreements and other confidentiality agreements for legitimate business reasons, such as to protect confidential information.

“What is completely unacceptable is the misuse of these agreements to silence victims, and there is increasing evidence that this is becoming more widespread. Our new proposals will help to tackle this problem by making it clear in law that victims cannot be prevented from speaking to the police or reporting a crime and clarifying their rights.”

Review into Safety of Agreements

The government also cites evidence that NDAs have been misused to silence whistleblowers, or those seeking consultation. It has led to situations where an under-pressure worker may be in breach of contract for discussing issues with a doctor or therapist. The government states that this may leave others exposed to similar situations, or put customers and organisations at risk.

The use of NDAs and confidentiality clauses to silence reports of criminality has been discussed with increasing regularity. The #MeToo movement, and high profile cases such as Harvey Weinstein, have seen NDAs attract criticism for protecting criminals. Weinstein’s former assistant Zelda Perkins offered her commentary on the proposed changes to the law. “I am very pleased that the Government is starting to take steps to deal with the misapplication of NDAs.” Ms Perkins added that she hoped they would “put an end to the powerful using the law as a tool of abuse.”

The proposals remain in the consultation phase, which will last until April 29th.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “We’re sending a clear message that a change in the law is needed to ensure workers are able to come forward, be aware of their rights and receive the advice they need before signing up to them.”

A full summary of the proposals can be read on the UK Government website.

Time Travellers Required for Impossible Job Listing

But the inaccurate vacancy ad may actually be evidence of unconscious bias

This week, Recruitment Grapevine has covered the story of an impossible job listing spotted by a Reddit user. But could the outcome be a little more serious than a copywriting error?

The post in question advertises a vacancy as a “Big Data Analytics Lead” for a Fortune 500 company. So far, so good. But it then goes on to request “20-25 years’ experience in Big Data”, and things get a little weird.

As the anonymous user points out, the term “Big Data” was originally coined by Roger Mougalas, in 2005. Even the most pioneering minds in the field – those who, presumably, would qualify for this position – have 14 years’ experience.

How poor wording becomes an unconscious bias

As Recruitment Grapevine explains, the mistake is a simple case of a recruiter not fully researching their target job. But the resulting error could actually be a little more serious.

The use of gendered language in vacancy listings can expose recruitment agencies to claims of discrimination, as we have seen in previous weeks.

But, in this case, there is a clear case of age discrimination present in the post. The call for 25 years’ experience in a field which is less than 15 years old is not a request for a certain set of skills. It is a loosely-coded request for applicants aged 40 to 45 years of age.

It is perfectly acceptable to require some degree of seniority or experience in a vacancy. What is harder to justify is a call for candidates to lie within a narrow, five-year age bracket.

This is where bias – unconscious or otherwise – can begin to create ethical problems and questions of discrimination. Rarely is the topic exposed as clearly as it was in this instance, but it demonstrates the urgency with which agencies should tackle the issue. Firms which put in place measures to ensure equality of services and opportunities – such as with automation – will safeguard themselves against claims of unfair treatment.

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