A pizza restaurant, based in Ireland, has recently come under criticism for posting a job advert which specifies that the applicants should be female and requiring a photo.
The manager who posted the job advert explained the reasoning behind the gender specific advert saying “It’ll be kind of a person representative of our business, going between offices, hospitals, schools and the position will be particularly suited for a girl. I don’t want to waste anybody’s time when they come over for interview. That’s why there was a question about the picture.
By limiting a job advertisement to a specific gender there is a real risk of direct discrimination based on a person’s sex.
The ACAS guidance ‘Sex discrimination: key points for the workplace’ states that you should “be careful when writing an advertisement, job description and person specification for a vacancy. Stay clear of any reference to a particular sex, including in job titles – for example, avoid terms such as waitress and tradesman.”
There is a defence to a direct and indirect discrimination claim, where an employer may be able to specify a sex, such as where there is a genuine occupational requirement for a person of a specific gender. To be a genuine occupational requirement the ACAS guidance sets out that the requirement must be:
- crucial to the post;
- relate to the nature of the job; and
- be a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
If the aim can be achieved by other reasonable means which are less discriminatory, then the employer will be unable to rely on this defence. An example of a genuine occupational requirement could be requiring a particular gender due to work being based in a changing room for people of the same gender, to ensure privacy and decency. In the above case, it seems unlikely that the pizza restaurant will be able to rely on their alleged justification for a female employee as being a genuine occupational requirement.
With many jobs wrongly stereotyped as typically male or female roles, employers may discriminate against applicants based on gender for certain roles such as a woman applying for a role as a builder or other tradesperson or a male applying for a role in a beauty salon.
If you are recruiting for a role which you believe has a specific gender requirement we would recommend contacting a member of our Employment Department to discuss further. Compensation for discrimination claims is uncapped so liability may be substantial.
This article is not a substitute for legal advice on specific facts and circumstances. It is designed as a free update on the law at the time of publishing. BakerLaw LLP and/or the writer accepts no responsibility for reliance on this article and recommends that you seek independent legal advice on your specific circumstances prior to taking any steps.