1 in 5 employers admit to online recruitment discrimination

Eighteen per cent of employers surveyed revealed that they use filters on their online job advertisements to limit who they appear to, with many deliberately avoiding women and people aged over 50.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Linkedin allow advertisers to choose the demographic of people that they want to show their advert to. This is particularly attractive to advertisers who are able to identify their target audience for their product or service. However, employers should take note that to use these abilities to filter the audience for a job recruitment advertisement could be interpreted as clear discrimination on the basis of protected characteristics of age and/or gender.

Employment law solicitors Slater and Gordon interviewed 503 employers in respect of their employment practices. Of those that admitted to filtering the audience for their online advertisements, 23 per cent admitted to discriminating against women and 32 per cent to discriminating against people aged over 50. In total, 62 per cent of the employers surveyed admitted to using the tool to seek out people with specific reference to their age, gender, disability or race.

Ordinarily discrimination cases are brought against employers because the people are aware that they were overlooked for a role because of a protected characteristic such as their age or gender. The difficulty posed by online advertising is that employers can simply prevent the advert from being seen by anyone over or under a certain age, or of a specific race, so those people will rarely be aware of the existence of the job role in the first place.

Only 17 per cent of employers were aware that it was unlawful to actively discriminate by choosing who should see the online job advertisement, while 57 per cent considered that it came under a 'legal grey area'.

The law is playing catch up when it comes to many aspects of the internet, and in particular the use of social media. This is one area that could potentially be used by existing employees and job hunters who want to show discrimination against them because of a protected characteristic.

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