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Discrimination in recruitment and selection

Updating author: Lynda Macdonald


  • The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against job applicants because of a protected characteristic. (See Overview of the impact of the Equality Act 2010 on recruitment)
  • Failing to offer a job applicant a position because of a protected characteristic amounts to direct discrimination. (See Direct discrimination)
  • Employers need to take care not to apply criteria and conditions to job requirements and the recruitment process that may result in unjustifiable indirect discrimination against job applicants. (See Indirect discrimination)
  • Specific provisions apply in relation to the protected characteristic of disability. (See Disabled candidates)
  • There is a duty to make reasonable adjustments to the recruitment process in relation to job applicants with a disability. (See Duty to make reasonable adjustments)
  • It is unlawful to ask a job applicant questions about their health or disability before making a job offer to that person, although there are some exceptions to this rule. (See Questions about disability and health screening)
  • It is permissible to target recruitment towards under-represented or disadvantaged groups. (See Positive action - general provisions)
  • Employers can take specified positive action in connection with recruitment and promotion but only in limited defined circumstances. (See Positive action in recruitment and promotion - specific provisions)
  • The Equality Act 2010 permits employers, in limited circumstances, to operate an exception to the general principle of equality and apply to a post a requirement to have a particular protected characteristic. (See Occupational requirements)
  • Giving instructions to an employment agency to discriminate is unlawful, and if the instructions are carried out, both the employer that gave the instructions and the employment agency that complied with them would be liable in law. (See Ensuring instructions are free from discrimination)