Avoiding discrimination in your job adverts

July 17, 2018
job adverts

As a recruiter there are many skills you need to develop to be successful.  Keeping your job adverts compliant and free from discrimination is just one of them.

We work with hundreds of recruiters all over the UK and we never fail to be surprised about some of the language recruiters do not realise is potentially discriminatory.  If there was a list of banned words it would make life much simpler for recruiters but that is not the case, it is an expanse of grey areas.

As with employees, it is unlawful to discriminate against job applicants and for this reason extra care is required when writing your job adverts.

So, what is classed as discrimination in job adverts?

The Equality Act 2010 legally protects people from discrimination.  This means that discrimination or unfair treatment on the basis of certain personal characteristics is against the law in almost all cases.

There are 9 personal characteristics which are:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage or civil partnership (in employment only)
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

The 2 categories of discrimination in advertising

Direct discrimination – This is where in an advert it is clear that you only want applicants to respond that match a certain criteria and by doing so excludes others based on any of the personal characteristics.

Indirect discrimination – This is where in an advert you have a criteria that applies equally to everyone but automatically excludes a certain group of people from the recruitment process.  Unless you have a fair and lawful justification for the criteria you have given this will be classed as discrimination and unlawful.

How to avoid discrimination


When writing your adverts do not give any indication of the age range of the people you are looking for.  This includes things such as:

  • Requesting a number of years’ experience. (This can be seen as discriminating against younger applicants that may not yet have had the chance to have gained that amount of experience)
  • Using words such as youthful, dynamic, mature.
  • Using titles such as Junior or Senior without stating a disclaimer in your advert explaining that this refers to the level of the job role.


Any language which refers to the physical abilities of a person should be avoided in your job adverts unless they are an absolute necessity for the job role. This includes words such as:

  • Active
  • Athletic
  • Must hold a driving licence – if you are not expected to do any driving as part of your job


There are certain roles where there is a genuine requirement for an applicant to be of a certain gender such as working in a single-sex care home, hospital or prison.  When recruiting for these kinds of roles you must make sure that you explain in the advert the reason behind this need.

In all other jobs where there is not a genuine requirement for an applicant to be of a certain gender avoid using gender-specific job titles within your adverts.  These include job titles such as:

  • Postman
  • Waitress / Waiter
  • Handyman

Race and Religion

Employers by law are required to check a candidate’s eligibility to work within the UK, however, as a recruiter, you are not permitted to request that you are looking for an applicant of a certain race or religion unless like with gender on the occasion that there is a genuine requirement to the role.

You need to ensure that the terminology you use when writing your adverts is correct, for example if you are recruiting for a French Speaking Customer Service Advisor advertising with this terminology is perfectly fine as it is showing that the job is suitable to anyone that speaks French whereas advertising as a French Customer Service Advisor or a Native French speaker is seen as discrimination as it implies that only someone of French origin is suitable for the role.

To Recap

As we do when writing your adverts as part of our Emergency Candidate Boost and Employer Branded Advertising services think about what you are writing and the terminology you are using so that your adverts are always professional and compliant.


The above is to be used as a guideline only and further information can be found at ACAS and in Schedule 9 of the Equality Act 2010.

Any questions? 

Do not hesitate to contact Candidate Source and we will do everything we can to answer your questions.



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