The Government announced last week that several large employers are going to pilot anonymous recruitment schemes. The organisations involved have voluntarily pledged that they will shortlist job applicants having first removed the candidates’ names.
The employers that have signed up to the pledge include the Civil Service, BBC, NHS, Local Government, HSBC, Deloitte, KPMG, Virgin Money and Learndirect.
It does not have any impact on applicants to other organisations but this list of public and private sector organisations employ some 1.8 million people in the UK so it will affect considerable numbers.
Why would these employers change their recruitment practices? At the Conservative Conference last month a speech given by the Prime Minister referred to the “disgraceful” situation that people with white-sounding names were nearly twice as likely to receive a call back following a job application than people with ethnic-sounding names.
However this is not breaking news. Back in 2009 the Department of Work and Pensions undertook what some referred to as a ‘sting’ operation when it commissioned research into whether there was racial discrimination in recruitment.
The research consisted of 2,961 applications being sent for 987 advertised job vacancies. Names on the applications were randomly assigned to convey different ethnicities. The results – 10.7% of the ‘white name’ applications received a positive response compared to only 6.2% of the ‘ethnic minority name’ applications.
Six years on and it appears that there is still this unconscious bias when job offers are being made. However, are no name applications the answer? Even if successful in getting through the first stage of the recruitment process the applicant would still presumably have to attend an interview. It appears that unless this is going to be conducted with a screen between interviewer and candidate – in some type of ‘Blind Date’ setting – there will still be the potential for unconscious bias to affect the decision making process.
That doesn’t mean though that the rejected applicant has no recourse against the employer. It might be easy to forget, given the fall in the number of claims, that any candidate who suspects that their application has been treated less favourably on grounds of their race can present a claim for discrimination in the Employment Tribunal. There is though the not unsubstantial obstacle of the fee to pay. So maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that this week changes to the fee remission system have been announced that are clearly aimed at making it simpler for would be claimants to get remission of the fee by removing many of the onerous paperwork requirements previously needed to qualify.