Job Adverts

Employers do not have to advertise job vacancies in a particular way or at all.

But if an employer doesn’t advertise at all or advertises in a way that won’t reach people with a particular protected characteristic, this might in some situations lead to indirect discrimination, unless the employer can objectively justify their approach. This is because not advertising or only advertising in a very limited way may stop people with a particular protected characteristic finding out about a job, which could count as worse treatment.

For example:

A large employer recruits workers to driving jobs through word of mouth. This results in everyone who has a driving job being a member of the same few families or a friend of these families. All the family members and their friends are white, despite the workplace being in an area of high ethnic minority population. Unless the employer can objectively justify the way drivers are recruited, this is likely to be indirect discrimination because of race.

If an employer does advertise, whether that’s on a notice board, in a shop window,in a newspaper or on a website, or by using a recruitment agency, an employer must not give the impression they intend to discriminate.

For example:
An employer advertises for a ‘waitress’. To avoid direct discrimination because of sex, they should advertise for ‘waiting staff’ or ‘waiter or waitress’.

This does not apply if any of the exceptions listed in the Core guidance apply. Then the employer could mention a particular protected characteristic in the job advertisement.

If you are a disabled person

If an employer does advertise a job, they must not state or imply that a job is unsuitable for disabled people generally or for a disabled person with a particular type of impairment, unless there is a very clear job-related reason for this.

For example:

An employer is advertising for somebody to deliver parcels on their own; the advertisement states that the successful applicant will have to drive and be able to lift the parcels. The need to drive is clearly required for the job. Although it may exclude some disabled people e.g. those with a sight impairment, it would not exclude all disabled people. It would therefore be wrong – and discriminatory – to put ‘unsuitable for disabled people’ in the job advert.

The employer must not state or imply that changes will not be made for a disabled person unless there is a very clear job-related reason for this.

For example:

When a school is advertising for a teacher to work in a building on two floors which does not have a lift, they must not state that because of this the job would not be suitable ‘for a disabled person’. Instead, if they wish to address this issue in the advert, they could point out that the school is on two floors but that they would welcome applications from disabled people whatever their impairment and would make reasonable adjustments both at interview and on appointment for applicants with a mobility impairment. If the school interviews an applicant with a mobility impairment, it would be a reasonable adjustment to hold the interview somewhere with level access. If the successful applicant has a mobility impairment, a reasonable adjustment could be made to allow them to do their teaching on the ground floor and, if necessary, level access to the ground floor could be provided through the installation of a ramp if this did not already exist, provided these are reasonable adjustments.

If an employer wants to, they can advertise a job as being open to disabled applicants only or say in an advert that they are encouraging disabled people to apply for a job. This is not unlawful discrimination against a non-disabled person. An employer is allowed to treat a disabled person better (or as equality law puts it ‘more favourably’) than a non-disabled person.  This can be done even if the disabled person is not at a specific disadvantage because of their disability in the particular situation. The reason the law was designed this way is to recognise that in general disabled people face a lot of barriers to participating in work and other activities. 

Equality good practice: what to look for if equality is important to you

  • An employer can use an advertisement to encourage applications from people with a particular characteristic, if they are using positive action.
  • An employer could use a logo to show that they encourage applications from people with a particular protected characteristic. For example, if an employer is authorised to use the ‘Two Ticks’ symbol, this shows that they want to encourage applications from disabled people.
  • An employer could use a statement to show that they want to encourage anyone who has the necessary skills and experience to apply whatever their protected characteristics, such as:
    • ‘We welcome enquiries from everyone and value diversity in our workforce.’
    • ‘We are willing to consider flexible working arrangements.’
    • If an employer has an equality policy, an employer could mention this, which would tell you that their organisation wants to operate in a particular way.

More information

Last Updated: 16 Jan 2015