BBC News has recently reported that the number of vacancies in the three months to August rose above one million for the first time since records began in 2001. Figures also showed employee numbers were back at pre-COVID levels in August 2021.

If you are an employer looking to recruit new staff, it is important to have a recruitment strategy to ensure you attract the best staff and minimise the risk of any employment law claims.

Before the recruitment process begins

It is first necessary to identify a vacancy. Although this may seem obvious, it is important to be clear on what exactly needs to be performed, and how it could be performed. For instance, does the job need to be performed on a full-time or part-time basis and does the job lend itself to flexible, rather than purely site-based working?  Consider whether the vacancy is for someone to work as an employee or on some other basis, e.g. to provide services on a project for a fixed term.

Once you have identified the vacancy, it is important to prepare a detailed job description and person specification making sure that it relates as closely as possible to the actual requirements of the job. Applicants should be able to clearly determine exactly what the job entails.

Careful drafting of the job description is important to identify the key tasks and responsibilities of the role, which in turn leads to the identification in the person specification of criteria which are reasonable and necessary to do the job, and therefore capable of justification in the event of any allegation of discrimination.

The job description along with the person specification, form the basis of the selection criteria against which short-listed applicants will later be assessed for selection purposes and help demonstrate that from the outset the employer followed a fair, objective and reasonable process for selecting the most suitable candidate.  This can also minimise the risk of a candidate resigning but maintaining that they were entitled to do so on the basis that the role they have applied for has been misrepresented.

It is important to ensure that potential job applicants with protected characteristics are not excluded by virtue of the criteria.

Recruitment methods

Consider what recruitment methods you will use to ensure any job advertisement is available to the widest pool of potential applicants. In most cases a combination of internal, word of mouth and external recruitment will be appropriate.

When drafting a job advertisement, you should consider the following:

  • prepare it on the objective analysis carried out when the job description and person specification were drafted;

  • reach the widest pool of candidates possible in the way that it is presented;

  • be concise and easily understood;

  • state the employer’s commitment to equal opportunities, and that it welcomes applications from anyone who believes they fit the essential requirements of the job;

  • avoid language and images that reflect stereotypical assumptions about people of a particular demographic;

  • include the job title and main terms including pay, location and the type of contract;

  • direct applicants to your data protection policy/notice;

  • set out how applicants should respond, whether by application form or CV, by email, online or other method. Consider carefully how any application form should be drafted;
  • consider whether alternatives such as tape or Braille are available if needed;

  • give a clear closing date for applications;

  • ask applicants whether they need any ‘reasonable adjustments’ for any part of the recruitment process. Job applicants should be asked to provide this information on a separate form or covering letter, and it should be kept separate from the application form.

Shortlisting and Interviews

Shortlisting of applicants should be done by matching applicants’ experience and skills to the job description and person specification. If possible, consider a marking system in advance whereby applicants will be marked according to those points identified in the job description and person specification, and apply this system consistently. Employers must avoid assessing applications on the grounds of an applicant’s personal characteristic unless an occupational requirement has been identified.

If possible, ask the same questions to all candidates during any interviews. Be careful not to ask any irrelevant questions that may relate to protected characteristics, for instance a question to a female applicant about whether she intends to have children could be discriminatory.

Ask applicants beforehand whether any particular arrangements need to be made to accommodate them on arrival or during the interview. The interview process should be well organised with a suitable meeting room booked with the interviewer attending on time with no interruption during the interview. The interviewer should use open ended questions and notes should be taken of the important points. Time should be allocated to allow the applicant to ask any questions. Applicants should be told when they can expect to receive a decision and no decision should be made during the interview.

It is unlawful to discriminate or harass persons applying for employment. Employers should therefore document the entire recruitment process of considering an applicant’s application, evidencing the good practice followed at each stage. Doing this will assist in the defence of any possible claim made against an employer. The documentation process should highlight the decision-making process, explaining how and why a particular decision was made. Having a paper trail containing the above is likely to prevent any possible inference that the reason for rejection was discriminatory.

Data Protection

Throughout the recruitment process, employers must comply with data protection obligations. Broadly, applicants should be made aware of the manner in which an employer processes their data and the length of time it will be retained. As a general rule, recruitment records should be kept for six months following the date by which an applicant was notified of the outcome of their application.

Offers of Employment and Pre-Employment Checks

Decide how any offers of employment are to be put to the job applicant. When an offer of employment is accepted, an employer must give employees and workers a document stating the main conditions of employment when they start work. This is known as a ‘written statement of employment particulars’.

The written statement is made up of the main document (known as a ‘principal statement’) and a wider written statement. The employer must provide the principal statement on the first day of employment and the wider written statement within 2 months of the start of employment.

Employers should ensure they carry out any pre-employment checks where applicable including reference requests, right to work checks, DBS checks, pre-employment medical checks and should consider whether they have any post-termination restrictions in a contract of employment with a previous employer which might affect their ability to work.

If you require advice on the recruitment process, employment tribunal claims, drafting of employment contracts or any other employment law query, please get in touch with our specialists at Farleys on 0845 287 0939 or contact us by email.