• Equality at work starts with the recruitment process. What are the challenges? What are the practical solutions?
• Latest employment data from the ONS show continuing trends in vacancies and employment rates.
• Presenteeism is reaching epidemic levels. But why do Britons feel uncomfortable admitting they are ill?
Why Agencies Should Focus on Solving Recruitment Discrimination
Challenging bias is a hot topic. Recruiters who tackle this problem could create reputational advantages for themselves – and for their clients.
How likely is it that you, or one of your colleagues, has experienced workplace discrimination? If you read this with two colleagues, then it is likely that at least one of you has been victimised.
According to recruitment artificial intelligence developers at JaimieAI, discrimination is much more commonplace than many would assume. In fact, nearly a third of staff questioned (31 per cent) believe they may have been the victim of professional discrimination at some point in their life.
And recruitment is the one area of professional life where individuals feel most like to be faced with discrimination.
A quarter of those surveyed (25 per cent) felt that gender played a part in hiring decisions. One in five (21 per cent) thought social status hindered their chances of getting an interview. Staggeringly, more than half (51 per cent) of applicants felt that age played a part in a prior outcome.
The data underlines the extent to which bias and discrimination is a common occurrence in the hiring process.
Recruiters told: tackling bias will increase your value to clients
Last week, we investigated the latest gender pay gap data. The take-away from that news story for many recruiters will have been the fact that enterprises are willing to invest money to end workplace inequality.
On the face of it, that should be the only incentive that recruiters need to invest their own resources in ensuring client businesses provide a fair, modern working environment for their candidates.
In practice, it is rarely possible to gain such a complete insight into clients’ working practices and codes of conduct. By their very definition, if a business is implementing discriminatory hiring, it will do its best to keep it hidden.
It is a situation that has created a form of passive acceptance across the whole sector, says JaimeAI CEO Adrian Ezra. “Bias is an intrinsic part of the human character”, he suggests. “When recruiters currently ask candidates for demographic information, they inadvertently create space for discrimination to fuel existing biases.”
Mr Ezra’s company is looking at ways to address this, using recruitment software and artificial intelligence technology. The ambition is to build a hiring system where personal identifiers (such as age, race, gender and even individuals’ names) are no longer required for the majority of the hiring process.
The recruitment technology company has ambitions that echo the use of blockchain technology in recruitment. A hiring process where candidates are anonymised. This not only eliminates bias; it also makes personal data much easier and safer to share, too.
Don’t wait for robots: you can make the difference
But these are fixes that are – at best – several years away from becoming commonplace. For today, the solutions are cultural ones. Mr Ezra says he would like to see “new models emerge that focus on skills, experience and preferences” over identity.
This, he says, would allow recruiters to directly contribute to a fairer workplace – while also increasing the value offering of their service to clients. “This not only reduces and prevents discrimination, but also increases the overall accuracy of the service.”
Mind your language: gendered jobs listings could expose your business
Meanwhile, legal experts have highlighted the impact that gender-imbalanced language in job listings can have on hiring. The commentary provides one clear area where recruiters can have an immediate, positive impact on cultivating diversity during employment.
New research by job search engine Adzuna find a broad trend towards posts which contain so-called gendered language. It found that more than half (60 per cent) of UK industries exhibit clear male bias in the way they list and advertise their vacancies.
When assessing individual adverts, the site found 17 per cent of all listings had used male-biased vocabulary.
In these studies, words like “leader”, “dominant”, and “strong” are considered male traits. Female bias is considered to be adverts which include words like “affectionate” and “careful”.
Speaking to Joanna Parry of Tozers Solicitors explained the significance of gendered language in hiring to Recruiter. “The wording of a job advert should be as objective as possible, and focus on the skills required to undertake the role, rather than asking for specific character traits that could associated with either sex”.
In the same interview, Jahad Rahman of Rahman Lowe Solicitors explained that gendered language was allowed, but that discrimination itself was rarely acceptable. “If there is a genuine occupational requirement, then you could say this role is purely for women because of x – let’s say it’s a woman’s refuge centre and then they can justify it. But otherwise it should all be gender neutral. You can’t say: ‘we need a man for this role’.”
A poor choice of words could cost recruiters
Rahman went on to explain how poor choice of language in a job listing could expose employers and recruiters to the risk of a claim. “It would go to a tribunal and the applicant would say the reason you didn’t select me was because you just assumed that I wasn’t sensitive or I wasn’t affectionate. By applying those criteria you’ve indirectly discriminated against me.”
The risk of a claim goes beyond financial loss. The reputational damage could negatively impact an agency’s ability to attract clients and generate income in the future, too. The report’s findings emphasise the important duty of care that consultants must exercise as part of their everyday commitment to fairness and best practice.
Britons “too busy to get sick”
Workers in Britain are too busy to take time off, even when suffering, a new study reveals.
More than seven in ten workers (72 per cent) are too busy to take time off when they get ill. This was the finding of a new study compiled by Bupa and Babylon Health.
The research looked into the health and lifestyle trends in Britain’s workforce. While these subjects are increasingly seen as a vital part of work-life balance, many continue to ignore their own well-being.
A third of employees (32 per cent) will habitually downplay the affects of a sickness or injury in order to continue working. Virtually all of us (92 per cent) has gone into work despite being too ill to attend, at least once in our careers. The phenomenon – now known as “presenteeism” – is considered to have significant impact on the health of individuals, as well as the productivity of organisations.
The reasons people gave to justify their tendency towards presenteeism were perhaps predictable enough. They ranged from lost wages, to slipping behind on an already heavy workload.
The most common reasons for working while sick were:
- Loss of wages (51%)
- Fear of reprisals / punishment (22%)
- Falling behind with a workload (11%)
- Underestimating how sick they were (9%)
- Had already taken too many days of sick leave (6%)
Bupa found that the tendency to downplay illness was most pronounced in working environments with higher employee competition. Young males, those working for an SME or in London – as well as those engaged in manual labour – were the groups most likely to delay seeking medical attention for their health concerns.
As recruiters, we are responsible for our talent. Remember: a successful placement is one that remains in place for at least three months. How well do you understand your clients’ workplace practices? Could you be placing your clients with one of the 22 per cent of firms that frighten their staff into attendeeism? Unhappy and unwell candidates will perform poorly and affect output. This lowers retention rates and reflects badly on the employer, the employee, and you – the recruiter. The data strongly emphasises the critical role that recruiters can play in ensuring that every candidate placement is a happy, healthy and successful one.
Latest ONS jobs data
High employment, increasing vacancy trends continue.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its latest report on the UK labour market this week. Its findings point to a continuation of the trends which have shaped the recruitment sector for the past twelve months.
Despite earlier projections, the estimated rate of employment failed to increase. It now stands at 4.0 per cent – matching last month’s figures. The ONS has expected to see a slight increase to 4.1 per cent unemployment.
As we previously reported, the jobs market has not experienced such low levels of unemployment since December 1974.
This equates to approximately 1.36 million unemployed individuals: around 14,000 fewer than in the previous report. This is also a contraction of 100,000 people over the past twelve months.
The skills gap continues to widen – and there are few indicators to suggest that the increase will slow any time soon. While 14,000 left unemployment, the UK jobs market saw an increase in unfilled vacancies of 16,000. It means that job creation is now outpacing the rate at which available talent is leaving unemployment.
Current vacancies total 870,000; a year-on-year increase of 46,000. This places current job creation levels as the highest on record.
Overall employment stands at 75.8 per cent, or 32.6 million individuals. Employment has continued to grow – by +0.6 per cent year-on-year. Current employment rates are also the highest since records began, in 1971. The annual net increase in employment stands at an additional 444,000 people in employment.
Data, political uncertainty signal wage pressure
Average weekly earnings for employees in Great Britain in real terms (that is, adjusted for price inflation) increased by 1.2% excluding bonuses, and by 1.3% including bonuses, compared with a year earlier.
Tom Hadley, director of policy at the Recruitment & Employment Confederation (REC) highlighted the important role of recruitment professionals.
“The record number of vacancies shows that opportunities are there for job-seekers at present. The challenge in many sectors is finding the right candidates to fills these roles which is why recruitment professionals are playing an increasingly pivotal role in supporting employers.”
But he also warned of “a significant downturn in businesses confidence” due to political uncertainties.
“The political uncertainty surrounding our future relationship with the EU is only compounding matters and putting off businesses from making future hiring plans and deterring foreign companies from investing in the UK.
The sooner employers get some clarity, the better it will be for our jobs market.”
You can download the full report here (pdf).