Can employers specify a minimum number of years' experience in job advertisements?

Employers frequently require job applicants to have a minimum number of years' experience or previous service and until recently it was relatively common to see job advertisements containing a requirement of this nature. However, this type of requirement is potentially indirectly age discriminatory against younger candidates, who are far less likely than older workers to have the relevant number of years of experience.

It would therefore be for the employer to justify the need for a certain number of years' experience. Certainly after the first few years, judging competencies by reference to years of experience is not reliable. This is because a great deal of experience is gained during the first few years of employment, but this then tends to "level out". There is, for example, probably little difference in competence between someone with, say, 10 years' experience and someone with 12 years' experience.

Clearly, it is quite legitimate for an employer to wish to appoint a job applicant who is suitable to fill the particular vacancy. However, instead of specifying years of experience or service, which is time-based so potentially indirectly age discriminatory, employers should specify the type, breadth or level of experience needed for the particular job and the skills and competencies required. Employers can use the person specification to assist in the drafting of a suitable advertisement.