News & Views

Essential Criteria: Honours Degree, Three Years’ Experience and a Pretty Face

BY Katy Marshall
Employment law
BG Purple

A lesson on how not to recruit can be learned from one top dog in the pharmaceutical industry, who was found guilty of sex HR earlier on this week.

David Noakes was one of the masterminds behind a cancer ‘wonder-drug’ which was banned at the start of the year amid healthcare concerns. His PA, Lucia Pagliarone, had come across her old job application and noticed that instead of commending her impressive organisational skills and work ethic, David had written:

Red lipstick, heels, good; tattoos, do not approve; wearing a dress, excellent’.

Lucia also noticed that David had found himself unable to hire another candidate as she was ‘ugly and overweight and I only employ beautiful women’.

Now what, one might ask, does an individuals’ appearance have to do with their ability to do their job? Very little apparently, as the tribunal found these comments to be discriminatory, resulting in Noakes having to pay a £10,500 award to his now ex-employee.

So what might a reasonable employer expect from prospective candidates? Perhaps a minimum 2:1 Honours degree is essential: a good person specification will make reference to ‘equivalent’ qualifications to avoid excluding potential applicants from overseas. A requirement for a certain number of years’ management experience, for example, must be justified in the circumstances to avoid discriminating on grounds of age; whilst a requirement for ‘continuous experience’ could disadvantage women who had exercised their right to take maternity leave.

An employer is entitled to ask candidates to disclose only those convictions which are not yet ‘spent’ under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. There is also a general prohibition on requiring applicants to answer health questions before an offer of employment is made, subject to a few limited exceptions.

This case has proved that the importance of a transparent recruitment process with objective criteria cannot be overstated. Law At Work have a dedicated HR Team who are experienced in all areas of recruitment. If you require assistance with anything from compiling a Person Specification to choosing interview questions, our Team are on hand to provide you with support and assistance throughout. Please call 0141 271 5555 for more information*.

*Red lipstick optional but not essential

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