Recruitment responsibilities for employers

As an employer, it is your legal obligation to avoid discrimination when you recruit workers.

Under Victorian and federal anti-discrimination laws, a person has a right to be appointed to a position if they are the best person for the job, regardless of their background or personal characteristics

Each step of the recruitment process should be non-discriminatory. This includes:

advertising the position

conducting interviews and pre-employment tests

selecting the preferred candidate.

The application process should be open and accessible, and not present barriers that could discourage people from applying. Employers may also need to consider making reasonable adjustments to the workplace to support a person with a disability or impairment.

Advertising

Advertising is a crucial way to attract the right people to apply for a particular job.  A good advertisement will be clearly written, widely advertised and only focus on the essential skills and abilities required for the job. 

Understanding the law

It is against the law to publish or display an advertisement that indicates, or could reasonably be understood to indicate, an intention to discriminate because of personal characteristics protected by the law. For example, by specifying the preferred race, age or gender of applicants.

Restrictive or discriminatory language

Write in a way that does not discourage some people from applying for the job or inferring that only certain applicants will be considered. For example, phrases like “join a dynamic young team” or “seeking mature, experienced professional” could be seen as restrictive or discriminatory.

Working with recruitment agencies

If you engage a recruitment agency, make sure that they clearly understand the requirements of the position, equal employment principles and anti-discrimination laws.

Making a complaint

Anyone can notify the Commission of a discriminatory advertisement, regardless of whether or not they are directly affected.

Interviews

Interviews are the most common way to select new employees. All prospective candidates must be assessed against the essential and desirable criteria, in the same way, and by the same selection panel. 

Understanding the law

It is against the law to request information about someone’s personal background or characteristics – such as their age, marital status or parental status – and then refuse them a job based on this information.

Interview and selection panels

A panel that has people from a range of backgrounds, including both men and women can be very useful, but this is not a legislative requirement. People on the panel should have a good understanding of:

  • the job requirements
  • the importance of asking only job-related questions 
  • equal opportunity principles.

Conducting the interview

The interview process must gather the information required to make a decision on the preferred candidate or candidates.  Not all applicants need to be interviewed. 

  • Ask consistent questions that relate directly to the job requirements.
  • Give candidates time to make their point. You may need to make reasonable adjustments for some people in the interview give them an equal chance in comparison with others.
  • Keep a record of each candidate’s answers and keep these in a confidential file. 
  • Score against the advertised selection criteria.

Following the interview process, the panel must discuss and decide on selection of the preferred candidate.

Discriminatory questions

Avoid asking questions that are presumed to be relevant only to certain applicants, for example to women, older workers or parents. Instead, ask whether an applicant can fulfil the key requirements of the job, such as travel, overtime or performing any necessary physical activities. People are not obliged to disclose information about disability or illness unless it is relevant to the job.

Testing and assessment

Pre-employment tests may include medical or aptitude testing, often before the formal interview. It is important that these tests are relevant to the job, non-discriminatory and that any specific needs of candidates with a disability are taken into account.

Tests

Sometimes it is appropriate to carry out assessments before a candidate is selected or employed, for example medical or aptitude (psychological or psychometric) tests. This could happen before or after the interview process. 

These tests should only be used to assess an applicant’s suitability for the position, based on the selection criteria. All information must be treated with strict confidentiality. 

Medical tests

Pre-employment medical tests should assess the candidate’s ability to perform the requirements of the job not their general state of health. An employer cannot refuse to employ a person on the basis of a medical test that discloses a disability unrelated to the adequate performance of the job. 

Aptitude tests

Pre-employment aptitude tests must be designed so they relate directly to the genuine requirements of the job. These tests are also called psychological tests or psychometric tests.  

It is important that the test is developed, delivered and the results interpreted by someone with appropriate expertise and experience. An employer can be legally liable for the discriminatory actions of an external consultant conducting aptitude tests on behalf of the organisation. 

Selection

Following the interview process, employers or the selection panel need to:

  • review the information that has been collected, including the application form, resume, interview results and referee reports
  • rank the candidates, setting aside assumptions and stereotypes
  • keep written records of how recruitment decisions have been made
  • make an offer to the successful candidate and advise unsuccessful candidates.

The focus must be on choosing the right person for the job, based on the demonstrated skills and abilities of the candidates.

Maintain confidentiality

All documentation and communications with candidates should be treated in confidence. Recruitment files should be held in secure locations with restricted access.

 

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