Positive Action in the recruitment of Minority Ethnic Groups
Everyone, regardless of their ethnicity or background, should be able to fulfil their potential at work. Organisations that are diverse and inclusive, allowing equal progression and participation in the workplace, across ethnicities, will have a wider talent pool and consistently perform better.
However, employees from minoritised ethnic groups still face discrimination at every stage of their career and according to the McGregor-Smith Review (2017), this is costing the UK economy £24 billion annually.
Positive action is a mechanism that allows you to encourage or support a particular race/ethnicity and is likely to be seen primarily in recruitment, promotion or training. Positive action is not the same as positive discrimination, which is unlawful. You can take positive action measures if you think that people of a certain group suffer a disadvantage, they are underrepresented or that they have needs that are different from those of other groups. You will have to show that it was reasonable for you to think this.
Job descriptions without discrimination
When recruiting a new employee, the aim should be to hire the most suitable person for the job, ie. the person with the skills, qualities and experience needed for the role. Therefore, job and person specifications, application forms and interview questions etc. should focus on these.
Some words are clearly directly discriminatory like ‘black’, ‘white’ or ‘Jewish’. Other language may imply the race of the person you are trying to recruit. Ensure that the language you use does not alienate people from a particular racial background – you will be unnecessarily limiting your talent pool.
Diversity and inclusion when advertising jobs
As well as the language of job descriptions and adverts, you need to consider other aspects of advertising.
To attract a wide range of applicants you should use the following approaches:
- Diversity and Inclusion statement: Make it clear in your recruitment literature that your organisation is committed to inclusion and diversity, and welcomes applications from people from minority ethnic backgrounds.
- Placement: Location and advertising media could be sending race-linked messages or signals to prospective employees so do your research on the demographic reach of any media you use. Consider using job boards that specifically target diverse candidates, such as Includability - especially if you are looking to fill positions in areas that are underrepresented.
- Representation: Make sure you use positive images of your workforce from minoritised ethnic groups, across your social media channels and especially on job adverts to attract diverse applicants.
Blind recruitment can remove discrimination
A study by experts based at the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, University of Oxford, found applicants from minority ethnic backgrounds had to send 80% more applications to get a positive response from an employer than a white person of British origin, despite having identical CVs and cover letters (The Guardian, 17/01/19).
The Adam vs Mohammed test (2016) also highlights the race bias in recruitment. Overall research has identified that Unconscious biases can be triggered during selection, hence the increasing popularity of ‘blind’ recruitment, which involves removing (or requiring applicants to remove) personal information from their CVs, such as their name, address and university attended. These sources of data could indicate a candidate’s gender, ethnicity, age and social background, which may trigger unconscious bias from the shortlisting panel. Many organisations, including the NHS and The Civil Service use blind recruitment.
Although blind recruitment is helpful in the short term, it needs to be accompanied by Unconscious bias training for hiring managers.
Panels should be gender and ethnically diverse and always consist of 3 people (including an expert) and never 1 person.