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Legal Updates

Paid Work Experience - Indirect Sex Discrimination

18 January 2012 #Employment

An Industrial Tribunal in Northern Ireland has held that a job advert requiring applicants to have at least two years’ paid work experience over a five year period to be indirectly discriminatory on the grounds of sex.

The Claimant, Ms Nuala Crilly, brought a successful indirect sex discrimination claim against the Respondent, Ballymagroarty Hazelbank Community Partnership, because it failed to shortlist her for the post of Neighbourhood Regeneration Officer.   The Claimant had a six year break from paid work due to child care responsibilities and so was unable to meet the requirement of two years’ paid work experience in the five year time frame.  However, during this time, the Claimant maintained extensive, high level voluntary experience.

The Respondent submitted that this criterion was justified because it needed to have someone in the post who could start immediately with minimal supervision and training.

However, the court held that it put the Claimant at a particular disadvantage because her relevant paid experience occurred before the five year period which meant that she was immediately eliminated from the short list.   As a result, she did not have the opportunity to discuss her recent (and relevant) voluntary experience at interview and thereafter be appointed to the post.  The Claimant contended that she was better qualified and had greater experience (particularly in connection with urban regeneration which was integral to the position) than the successful candidates. As there were two available posts, the Claimant thought that she stood a good chance of being appointed, particularly because the number of applicants short listed was low.

The Tribunal concluded that that the criterion was indirectly discriminatory as it had a disproportionate and adverse impact on females.  It therefore awarded the  Claimant £14,677 in damages, which included £5,000 for injury to feelings.

Employers should be careful about what criteria are specified in adverts and job descriptions and be sure that are justifiable and necessary.

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