Requirement for “recent paid work” - when unjustified recruitment criteria are considered discriminatory

21 March 2012

The Northern Ireland case of Crilly v Ballymagroarty Hazelbank Community Partnership vividly demonstrates to employers the danger of setting overly stringent recruitment criteria that could indirectly discriminate against groups based upon a protected characteristic.

In this case, Ms Crilly was an applicant for a job with the Ballymagroaty Hazelbank Community Partnership (BHCP) in late 2010. She intended to return from what had been a six year career break from paid employment due to child care responsibilities.  However, BHCP required, as part of its short listing criteria, that applicants had at least two years paid experience in their sector within the last five years.

The tribunal had evidence that Ms Crilly had considerable high level of voluntary experience in the voluntary sector during this period.  However, she was not even shortlisted.

Ms Crilly brought a claim against BHCP claiming indirect sex discrimination on the grounds that the requirement for two years paid work was a provision criteria practice (PCP) that was harder for women to fulfil on the grounds of their far greater share of the burden of child care responsibilities. 

For their part BHCP said that they could justify the short listing criteria because the two years paid experience was required to ensure recruitment of someone who could perform the job with minimal supervision and without the need for extensive training.  The tribunal didn’t like this argument.  They held that because BHCP offered a two month induction this would have given time for Ms Crilly to receive any required training on new procedures in the voluntary sector. 

They also referred to the Northern Ireland labour force survey.  This showed that over 90% more women than man take career breaks in order to attend to child care responsibilities.  This supported Ms Crilly’s contention that the selection criteria operated by BHCP placed ruminative disadvantage.

The tribunal awarded Ms Crilly £14,677, which included a £5,000 award for injury to feelings.  This case shows the real danger of putting in place unjustified selection criteria when recruiting staff.  Employers should always consider the effect of their selection criteria on underrepresented groups in the workforce and consider whether or not that the PCP they are putting forward is strictly necessary and whether it can be objectively justified as a real need on the part of the employer.

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