Prevent discrimination and value diversity

Discrimination when deciding who to employ


The anti-discrimination laws make it unlawful for you to discriminate against job seekers on the grounds of age, sex, pregnancy and maternity leave, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, married/civil partnership status, disability, race, religious or similar philosophical belief and political opinion.

The general rule is that it is unlawful for you to make recruitment decisions on any of these grounds, unless you can rely on a statutory exception as a defence, such as where the characteristic in question is a genuine occupational requirement, or, in cases of age discrimination, where the age criterion is justified, ie where it is shown to be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. 

Outreach positive action

If your analysis of monitoring data reveals imbalances in applicant or staff numbers in terms of race, sex, etc you can use positive action to encourage members of the under-represented group to take up opportunities for work, eg by having job advertisements stating that applications from, for example, women, or minority ethnic groups will be particularly welcome. However, the advertisement should still state that the final recruitment decision will be based solely on merit.

You should keep in mind that if you make a recruitment decision based on an individual's religion, race, sex, age or sexual orientation,  etc even if that particular group is under-represented in your workforce, this would be considered direct discrimination and is likely to be unlawful.

It is, however, permissible to treat disabled people more favourably than non-disabled people when making selection decisions.

View Equality Commission guidance on taking positive action when recruiting people with disabilities.

View Equality Commission employer guidance on positive action in relation to all other equality grounds.

Checking the right to work in the UK

You must be sure that your chosen candidate has the right to work in the UK - see ensuring your workers are eligible to work in the UK.

However, you must take care to avoid race discrimination while carrying out the necessary checks.

  • Equality Commission Employer Helpline
    028 90 500 600
  • LRA Workplace Information Service
    03300 555 300
Developed with:
  • Equality Commission