Looking to expand your business by hiring new employees?

It is important to make sure that you get the correct person for the job. It is however just as important to make sure that you do not open yourself up to unwanted legal claims such as allegations of unlawful discrimination.

Compensation for unlawful discrimination is unlimited. In 2011-12 an award of £4.4 million was awarded in a claim of race discrimination. Taking legal advice may avoid unwanted claims such as this.


Question 1 – What should I do before advertising?

 It is important to make sure all staff involved in the recruitment process have had equal opportunities training. This will make your staff aware of the rules and procedures regarding equal opportunities and it will help to avoid claims of discrimination.

It is also important to draft a job description and person specification.  Make sure that none of the requirements in either document discriminates against any groups of employees. If it does, you may face a discrimination claim.

Question 2 – Should I advertise for the position?

 Yes, you should decide whether the job should be advertised internally, externally or both.

Think carefully when you are writing the advert. Discrimination laws protect job applicants so it is important not to discriminate against a certain age group, race or sex etc.

Question 3 – Do I need an application form?

 You can request the applicant to simply send in a copy of their CV, request that the applicant completes an application form, or both.

If you use an application form, a standard application form should be used so that individual applicants’ answers can be compared against answers of others applicants.

Use the same criteria used in the job description and person specification to draw up a shortlist of applicants. Mark all applicants against the same criteria.

Question 4 – Can I ask pre-employment health questions?

 In most cases, no. It is generally forbidden to ask applicants questions about their health. If you do ask such questions you may face a claim of disability discrimination.

Question 5 – How should I conduct the interview?

Make sure that you consider when and where the interview should take place. It is important to check whether the interview venue has access for disabled candidates.

While conducting the interview, ask each candidate the same or similar questions to allow answers to be compared. You should avoid questions about a candidate’s personal life unless they are directly relevant to the requirements of the job. Asking a female applicant whether they are expecting to have children in the near future may give rise to a claim of sex discrimination.

Question 6 – How can I make the job offer?

 After you choose who the successful candidate is, make a written offer to them. It is best practice to consider whether a time limit for acceptance should be set. You should also specify that acceptance should be in writing.

It may be worth only making a conditional offer so that you can obtain references or check whether the employee is eligible to work in the UK.

Question 7 – Do I need to give the successful candidate a contract?

Yes, it is important to provide the successful candidate with a contract of employment.

It is worth considering whether the contract should be permanent or for a fixed term. Do not treat an employee on a fixed-term or part-time contract less favourably than a permanent employee.

If you do not have precedent contracts it is important to seek legal advice when drafting a contract of employment.

Question 8 – Can I set a probationary period?

Yes, a probationary period can be included in the contract. This enables you to assess the employee and vice versa. Probationary periods usually last three to six months and can be extended in some circumstances.

Seeking detailed legal advice may also be necessary and it may help to reduce the cost of defending expensive employment tribunal claims.