Discrimination in hiring that could lead employers to court

James Potts, Director of Legal Services – Peninsula

March 29, 2022

A post has taken the Twittersphere by storm this week – for all the wrong reasons. A job seeker has shared an image of a letter she received when she was turned down for a job at an undisclosed company.

The candidate was told she did not get the job because of her ‘strong Welsh accent’ and her ‘regional activities’ which ‘would not suit the office environment’. This despite the fact that they said she “performed very well throughout the interview” and that her “skills would reflect well in the role”.

Thousands of people have taken to Twitter to show their support, with many accusing the company of direct discrimination. While this case could certainly demonstrate recruitment bias, did the company involved act illegally?

James Potts, director of legal services at Peninsula, explains: “Applicants certainly have the option of bringing a discrimination complaint to the employment tribunal if they feel that the recruitment process has put them at a disadvantage compared to their peers in because of a protected characteristic they hold. .

“Employers should never make assumptions about a person’s abilities based on their accent or any other factor unrelated to their experience, qualifications, knowledge and skills.

“Would this claim be successful? Well, that entirely depends on the circumstances of the case.

“Being Welsh is classed as a racial group – just like English and Scottish – which means a claim of racial discrimination could be raised if the individual was treated less favorably for their national origins.

“Based on this, it is possible that this job seeker could claim that she was racially discriminated against, since her accent was the primary reason she was not hired.

“But there are limits. This argument would only hold if she applied for a job with a non-Welsh company. She could not claim accent discrimination if the job she was applying for was with a Welsh or Wales-based company.

“The best course of action for an employer in recruitment, to avoid any possibility of such claims, is to always have objective selection criteria. This ensures that each candidate is scored solely on their merits, reducing the risk of unconscious bias or discrimination. Employers should seriously consider adopting this as part of their recruitment strategy.