Introduction

The vacancy advertising service is managed by Employer Engagement and Student Employment (EESE), part of Student Employability and Academic Success (SEAS) at the University of Exeter.

Vacancy Advertising - Policies and Guidelines

Please see below information and advice concerning our vacancy service.

By submitting your advert to us you are requesting that the advert appears on our website(s) and you are granting us a licence and a right to sub-licence to reproduce the advert (in whatsoever form we see appropriate at our sole discretion) for any other vacancy advertising service we consider appropriate.

Any information sent to us is liable to be placed in the public domain and could potentially be accessed by anyone. We take no responsibility for any consequences arising from the release of any information that you send to us.

We attempt to review all submitted material within a reasonable timeframe. Where we request further information, we normally allow two weeks for a response - if none is forthcoming, we will then decline the vacancy with no further communications. Where an employer repeatedly fails to respond to communications, we reserve the right to withdraw the capacity to post roles on the site until the situation is resolved.

We make reasonable effort to screen vacancies according to the guidelines listed below. However, we make no guarantee to check every vacancy or that vacancies that are checked will meet the requirements of current employment legislation. All vacancies are submitted at the employer’s own risk.

Although we normally attempt to inform employers regarding any significant changes made to their adverts, we reserve the right to remove or amend any content in the published version that we believe risk violating employment law, without notice.

The University of Exeter chooses to accept or reject content at its sole discretion.

We welcome the following content:

  • Graduate roles in the UK and around the world
  • Internship and placement roles in the UK and around the world
  • Part-time, casual term-time work within reasonable distance of University of Exeter campuses (up to 15 hours per week)
  • Vacation work in the UK and around the world

Work dealt with by other teams:

  • Voluntary work is dealt with by the Students Guild
  • Careers-related events are managed by our dedicated events team. You can find information here

We will not promote:

  • Courses
  • Pyramid selling schemes
  • Investment opportunities
  • Positions for students to share academic material or study notes
  • Any role that appears to endorse illegal activity of any kind
  • Any role that may damage the reputation of the University or otherwise be detrimental to the interests of the University, its staff, students and other stakeholders
  • Advertisements that contain premium rate telephone numbers

More detailed information can be found in the other sections of this page.

Writing Job Adverts

The sort of information do we need to process your vacancy.

  • Your organisation's name, full postal address (including postcode), telephone number and email address.
    All email addresses should have an organisational domain name (i.e. you@yourcompany.com). We do not normally accept emails from webmail account providers (e.g. hotmail, yahoo or gmail) although we may make exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
  • A short description of your organisation.
  • Your company registration or charity commission number as applicable.
  • The vacancy job title.
  • The closing date (please note that we will not run vacancies beyond 1st August in the current academic year).
    We do not normally allow vacancies to be extended beyond the 1st August i.e. the end of the academic year that they are submitted; some allowances will be made for vacancies posted near to the end of the academic year.
  • We strongly recommend that you post vacancies a minimum of 2 weeks before the closing date. This is to ensure that potential candidates have time to view the vacancy and compile a quality application. If you are sending vacancies by email, we recommend 3 weeks to account for the additional inputting time, especially during busy periods. Although we endeavour to satisfy short-notice requests, we cannot guarantee this.
  • The number of posts available
  • The hours required i.e. full time or part time.
    We won't advertise casual work for students offering in excess of 24 hours per week during term-time.
  • Basic details of the employment contract including whether it is permanent, fixed-term or temporary, a general indication about hours expected. It is assumed that the Employment Status of positions being offered is that of Worker or Employee. If the Employment Status of the position is of another kind (e.g. self-employed or employee shareholder) this must be fully disclosed.
  • A very short description of the job, usually a sentence or two – this will appear on search lists and RSS feeds, so it should be concise but accurate.
  • A longer description of the vacancy for the advert - this should usually include, at minimum: a short description of your organisation; an illustration of the nature of the role and its key responsibilities; some information about the sort of applicant you are looking for highlighting any specific requirements
  • Application instructions, including any appropriate contact details and website links.
  • The location of the job.

All salaries for UK vacancies must meet National Minimum Wage requirements. Vacancies in other countries should conform to local employment law. The vast majority of the vacancies we accept must be paid. Commercial organisations that offer unpaid positions in the UK could be putting themselves at risk of legal action. The rules for charities are slightly different, but most volunteering work is dealt with the Students' Guild.

For further information, see our policy on unpaid opportunities.

We recommend that you post salary details, so that candidates will have reasonable expectations and can make an informed decision about whether or not to apply. Despite this recommendation, we allow adverts that do not include salary details. We may still ask you to disclose details to us so we can verify compliance with legal and University policy requirements. If you do not supply this information when asked, we will not be able to advertise your vacancy.

Please note we do not advertise any positions offered on a commission-only basis. Jobs with a commission-related salary structure should normally include a basic salary, plus an On-Target-Earnings figure.

Do not use "depending on experience" or variants as this can be regarded as age discrimination.

There are a number of sources that supply information on average graduate salaries. The Institute of Student Employers does research into graduate and student salaries, but membership is required to access the data. Some indication of average salaries by sector in 2020 can be found here.

  • All submissions should be written in a concise and professional manner, using only objective and factual statements and claims.
  • Avoid subjective language e.g. "we're a wonderful company to work for".
  • Avoid using "internal" language that may not be understandable to external candidates.
  • Avoid simply copying and pasting full job descriptions. If you feel the need to include a full job description, include it as an attachment, not as a substitute for an advert.

Unpaid Work

We can only advertise unpaid work in very particular circumstances.

Changes in the student and graduate labour market over the past few years have seen a significant rise in the number of organisations offering unpaid opportunities to graduates and students. In addition, in certain very competitive industries (especially media, PR, and similar industries) it has often been traditional for entrants to start work on an unpaid basis.

There appears to be a growing controversy around the ethical and legal aspects of this question. Various pressure groups have been formed by students and graduates; the matter has been referenced by high-ranking members of the government; and graduates now appear to be more willing to take legal action where they feel their rights have been violated.

In this context, the following policy has been devised to give clear guidance to stakeholders (University staff, employers, students and graduates) concerning the policy of Employer Engagement and Student Employment when dealing with these issues.

The National Minimum Wage

Entitlement for the National Minimum Wage is based primarily on two criteria:

  1. Whether the individual is a “worker” or not. Essentially this hinges on the question of whether the individual has a contract of employment or any arrangement that can be interpreted as such. Such a “contract” can be in written form, a verbal agreement, formal or informal, explicit or implied – each case would be decided on its individual merits.
  2. If the above applies, the worker will normally be entitled to the National Minimum Wage. However, there are specific exemptions within the legislation.

In this context, terms such as “internship” or “work experience”, etc. have no legal force. What matters is the nature of the relationship between the employer and the worker.

In the vast majority of circumstances, commercial organisations must pay National Minimum Wage in order to remain compliant with the law.

Organisations that wish to engage anyone on an unpaid basis are strongly advised to seek professional legal counsel to ensure they are compliant with the law as they may be putting themselves at risk of legal action.

Further detail on National Minimum Wage legislation can be found here.

Exemptions 

The National Minimum Wage framework allows for certain exemptions or circumstances where the NMW will not apply. This section will detail Employer Engagement and Student Employment policy on the most relevant exemptions for our circumstances.

Each vacancy will be considered on a case-by-case basis. We reserve the right to reject any vacancy even where an exemption may appear to be valid. Further information on common exemptions follows.

Work experience in the curriculum

Work experience required to be undertaken by students as part of UK based higher education courses is exempt from the National Minimum Wage where the arrangement does not exceed one year. Please note that although employers are permitted to offer placements on an unpaid basis, we encourage host organisations to offer paid work especially with regard to long-term placements. We reserve the right to reject adverts for unpaid placements of this type, especially when submitted by commercial organisations.

The specifics for curriculum-based work experience must be discussed with appropriate staff in the relevant Colleges – requirements and procedures may vary depending on course requirements.

To see if you have an opportunity an Exeter student could undertake as a Placement (in the workplace) or Project (work undertaken at the University) find out what our students are studying in the Academic College and Subject Disciplines.

To discuss whether your business need can match student need, please contact Richard Daniels (R.Daniels@exeter.ac.uk).

Depending on the subject, the hours needed and the start dates will vary e.g. 40 hours in total, over a whole academic year or a 6 month placement. Some Colleges may refuse to certify long-term opportunities offered on an unpaid basis.

Volunteering with charities or similar bodies

Charities and certain other organisations (usually voluntary organisations or certain statutory bodies such as a school or hospital) have a special exemption in NMW legislation called the “Voluntary Worker exemption”. This allows such organisations to engage “workers” that would in normal circumstances be entitled to the National Minimum Wage.

It is important to note that the provision of benefits (training, payments, benefits in kind, etc.) beyond what is needed for the direct fulfilment of the volunteer worker’s duties could invalidate the exemption.

Most volunteering opportunities should be promoted via the Students Guild.

If a particular role has a strong developmental element or involves graduate or undergraduate-leve work then Employer Engagement and Student Employment may promote it. We will consider submissions of this sort on their individual merit.

Work shadowing

This involves a student observing work but not being required or tasked to undertake any work themselves. Because there is no obligation to do work, the situation would not normally require NMW payment. Examples we frequently advertise are "insight" programmes that allow students to rotate around different departments in an organisation to see the various career prospects, work practices, etc.

Care should be taken to ensure that students are not given tasks or duties of their own to perform.

We will advertise work shadowing opportunities that do not exceed a maximum of 1 week in duration.

International Vacancies

The above information is relevant to positions offered in the UK. For international positions we will apply relevant legislation, custom and practice of the country in which the internship will take place.

Disclaimer 

The information on these pages is solely for the purposes of clarifying Employer Engagement and Student Employment policies concerning advertising unpaid opportunities. These guidelines do not represent any authoritative statement of the law and acceptance or rejection of any vacancy under these guidelines makes should not be taken as a statement regarding the legitimacy of any organisation or vacancy.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

All adverts must comply with best practice on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

The information on these pages is presented solely for the purposes of explaining and clarifying Employment Services policies concerning the vetting of job adverts submitted to the University of Exeter. This text does not represent any authoritative statement of the law and acceptance or rejection of any vacancy under these guidelines should not be taken as a statement regarding the legitimacy of any organisation or vacancy.

All the information given on this page was, to the best of our knowledge, correct at the time of writing. However, employment legislation is constantly changing and we cannot guarantee the factual accuracy of any information presented in this text. We accept no liability for any actions taken as a consequence of following these guidelines.

You should refer any doubts on legal questions to suitably qualified legal professionals.

The Basics of Discrimination

All adverts posted on our site should comply with best practice with regard to avoiding discrimination. In the context of job adverts, discrimination occurs when a person with one or more “protected characteristics” is somehow excluded or disadvantaged by the requirements of a role. There are two types of discrimination:

  • Direct discrimination occurs when a protected group is explicitly excluded. For example, if an advert says the post is only open to male candidates then the advert has discriminated directly against women.
  • Indirect discrimination occurs when, although a particular group is not explicitly excluded, one of the requirements of the role has a disproportionate impact on a protected group. This is the most common form of discrimination we encounter.

Both sorts of discrimination are usually unlawful. If a candidate believes they have been unfairly discriminated against by the requirements listed in your job advert, they may be able to take legal action against you.

However, in some circumstances, it can be lawful to discriminate if the requirement in question is an essential aspect of the role or, conversely, if possession of a particular quality would make carrying out the role impossible. If this applies to your vacancy, you must make sure the reasons for the requirement are clearly and explicitly explained within the text of the advert.

You should be certain that any potentially discriminatory requirements are essential to the role. Anyone viewing your adverts can challenge a requirement they feel may be discriminatory and you would be required to provide objective justification for having the requirement. If you are unable to do this, a candidate may be able to pursue legal action against you.

The protected characteristics, in alphabetical order, are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion and belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Further information on protected groups and forms of discrimination can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission website.

In the subsections of these pages, you can find some examples of the most common forms of discrimination we come across.

How we screen your vacancies

We make reasonable effort to screen vacancies according to the guidelines listed above. However, we make no guarantee to check every vacancy or that vacancies that are checked will meet the requirements of current employment legislation.

All vacancies are submitted at the employer’s own risk.

Although we normally attempt to inform employers regarding any significant changes made to their adverts, we reserve the right to remove or amend any content in the published version that we believe risk violating employment law, without notice.

Driving licence requirements can discriminate against disabled people and non-UK candidates who may face obstacles to gaining a licence. In addition, women are also statistically less likely to hold a driving licence than men. For these reasons, you should only ask for driving licences where they are essential to carry out the role.

In general, a licence could be argued as a legitimate requirement in the following circumstances:

  • The role involves a significant amount of travel during working time;
  • It is unrealistic for this travel to take place using public transport.

The travel must be a core component of the role. Examples may include surveyors that have to visit properties on a regular basis and carry equipment, or a territorial sales representative who is visiting clients throughout the day. A situation where the post-holder spends the majority of time in the office with only occasional travel is much harder to justify.

The location of the primary place of work is also irrelevant. It is not normally the employer’s concern how an employee travels to work, as long as they attend as required. Candidates without licences may be able to source transport from a variety of sources. Disabled candidates can, for example, apply for various government schemes that provide funding for disabled people to overcome obstacles to work. For situations like this, rather than requiring a licence, it is better to use phrases like “access to transport” or simply to state that the location is remote.

Asking for previous experience

Setting minimums, maximums or bandwidths of experience can discriminate on grounds of age. Most graduates are around the age of 21 when they graduate. If a role then requires an additional 2 years’ experience, the net result is to make it highly unlikely that anyone under the age of 23 can apply for the role.

This is why the Statutory Code explicitly gives these sorts of requirements as an example to avoid: "Asking for ‘so many years’ experience could amount to indirect discrimination because of age unless this provision can be objectively justified." (Pt.16.12)

As such minimum periods are arbitrary and are difficult to justify objectively. For example, if challenged in court, it would be very difficult to demonstrate why someone with 24 months experience is more competent than someone with 18 months’ experience. This is even more problematic if you consider that the candidate with 18 months’ experience may actually have more relevant experience than the candidate with the full 2 years’.

There is nothing wrong with asking candidates to demonstrate a successful track record or experience in a particular area but each candidate’s experience must be assessed on its own merits, not on the basis of arbitrary minimums.

A better strategy is to give thought to the specific skills and experience a candidate may need to fulfil the role. For example, depending on the role, you may want a candidate to have experience of supervising other members of staff, managing a complete project lifecycle, etc.

In a similar way, you should avoid setting maximums. By setting an arbitrary ceiling on experience, you are effectively excluding older candidates. This may also include mature students who may have gained significant experience before studying their degree.

Asking for Recent Graduates

Asking for recent graduates (or graduates who have graduated within a specific timeframe) can also discriminate on the basis of age. This is because most recent graduates are young people, meaning this requirement can exclude older people.

Situations where this might be an acceptable requirement might include situations where the content of the required degree is directly relevant to the work being undertaken and it is important that this knowledge is up-to-date. Bear in mind that, in most circumstances, recent experience in the relevant field would meet this criterion.

Taking care with language

When constructing adverts, think carefully about the meanings and implications of the words you are using. It is very easy to use words that seem innocuous but may have a discriminatory effect.

For example, asking for "young person" would almost certainly discriminate against older people. Lots of employers also use the word "mature". In our experience most employers who include this are looking for someone with a sensible and professional approach to work, but the word "mature" implies an older person and could be discriminatory.

Another common example is describing the company or team as "young". This might give the impression of an environment that an older person might find it harder to fit into or, worse, might even be unwelcome.

On the face of things, asking for particular qualifications seems like a safe requirement. They are objective measurements of a candidate’s academic skill. However, the wording of such a requirement can, in fact, be discriminatory.

Example: "Candidates should have 5 GCSEs, grade C and above"

The GCSE was introduced in 1988. Anyone studying before that time would have O-Levels instead, making a requirement for GCSEs potentially discriminatory on grounds of age. Moreover, the GCSE is a UK qualification. Candidates educated in other countries will, most likely, not have GCSEs – this would inevitably have an impact on non-UK-nationals and thus be discriminatory on grounds of race.

Whenever referring to a specific qualification, you should always make it clear that you are willing to accept recognised equivalents.

Example: "Candidates should have a degree"

Participation in Higher Education has expanded considerably over the past few decades, meaning that younger people are far more likely to have degrees than older people. Requiring a degree can, therefore, indirectly discriminate against older people. Strictly speaking, employers should be willing to accept relevant experience that demonstrates the intellectual capacity and skillset to perform the role rather than insisting on a degree qualification.

Example: “Candidates should be proficient in Microsoft Office applications”

This is another example of an apparently acceptable requirement with potentially discriminatory characteristics. This can impact on disabled candidates that may have difficulty using these specific packages, but may be able to use technologies designed to assist them.

It’s also worth considering that different editions of the Office suite (as well as other packages) can vary considerably in their appearance and functionality meaning that this is not quite as an objective requirement as it may first appear.

When requesting software skills, either use generic terms (e.g. word processing packages, spreadsheet applications) or make it clear you will accept proficiency in equivalent packages.

Asking for native-speakers implies that candidates should be of a particular nationality or ethnic group and thus discriminates on grounds of race. Given that most language-communities have very pronounced regional variations, some thought must be given to what is actually required here. Most roles only require business-level competency. Some roles – e.g. teaching languages and translation roles – do require a very high level of competence in a particular language. In these cases, it is best to use the term “native-level” competence.

Applicants should not usually be asked to provide photographs with their applications. For most roles, a candidate’s physical appearance should be irrelevant. Insisting on photos could leave you vulnerable to claims of discrimination on multiple counts.

Exceptions could include modelling, acting or similar roles. You may also need photographic evidence to confirm a candidate’s identity (for example, when verifying their right to work in the UK) but usually this should be done at the final stages of the recruitment process i.e. at interview or on appointment.

Section 16.42 of the Employment Statutory Code of Practice states that “Applicants should not be asked to provide photographs, unless it is essential for selection purposes, for example for an acting job; or for security purposes, such as to confirm that a person who attends for an assessment or interview is the applicant.”

It is very common for employers to state that they will only accept applications from those with the right to work in the UK. Unfortunately, this can result in unlawful indirect discrimination on grounds of nationality.

Companies have a legal responsibility to ensure that all employees have the right to work in the UK. To meet this requirement, some companies refuse to accept applications from anyone who does not already have this permission in place. However, because this requirement has a disproportionate impact on non-UK citizens, it has the potential to be indirect race discrimination. This has been confirmed by case law (Osborne Clarke Services vs Purohit). As a result, these sorts of statements should be avoided.

Insisting applicants have the permanent right to work in the UK has been explicitly rejected in government guidance: “Job applicants should not be treated less favourably if they produce acceptable documents showing a time-limited right to work in the UK” (Avoiding Unlawful Discrimination While Preventing Illegal Working, May 2014).

Some employers also insist that candidates provide evidence of their right to work at application stage. This point is addressed in section 16.67 of the Statutory Code of Practice accompanying the Equality Act 2010: “Eligibility to work in the UK should be verified in the final stages of the selection process rather than at the application stage, to make sure the appointment is based on merit alone, and is not influenced by other factors … Employers can, in some circumstances, apply for work permits and should not exclude potentially suitable candidates from the selection process.

For some roles, gaining sponsorship may not be possible as the role might not meet the minimum criteria required. If this is the case, you may state this on the advert but you must give specific details. For example, if the vacancy doesn’t meet the minimum salary requirement, you must state that requirement and confirm what salary you are offering.

Not all employers will have registered as a potential sponsor and thus are unable to sponsor applicants. However, a potential candidate could argue that securing such registration is not an unreasonable burden when balanced against their right not to suffer undue impact due to their nationality and that a company should be prepared to secure one if necessary. Stating that you do not have a sponsorship licence as a means to discourage applicants needing sponsorship could potentially expose you to claims of indirect racial discrimination. For this reason, we do not normally allow this statement on adverts. 

There have been a number of important changes have been announced regarding UK immigration law. The most important of these relating to graduate recruitment are:

  • Brexit: From 1st January 2021, most EEA citizens will no longer have freedom of movement in the UK. This means most EEA citizens will be subject to the same immigration controls as non-EEA citizens and will no longer have an automatic right to work in the UK. For employers, this means you will need to have a sponsorship licence to recruit most workers from outside the UK.
  • Common Travel Area: The Common Travel Area has been preserved in the new regulations. Under these arrangements, Irish citizens will continue to have freedom to enter, live and work in the UK; and UK citizens will continue to have freedom to enter, live and work in Ireland
  • The new Graduate Immigration Route: From summer 2021, graduates from UK universities will be able to stay and work in the UK for a maximum of two years without requiring sponsorship. After this period, they will need to switch to another route (e.g. the new Skilled Worker route that replaces Tier 2) to remain in the UK. UKCISA maintains up-to-date information on the post-study route here.

Examples: “Applicants should live in the Bristol area”; “applicants must live within 20 miles / half an hour of the place of work”

Just as it is not usually the employer’s concern how a worker gets to the workplace, it is not usually an employer’s concern where the worker lives either at the time of application or once appointed.

In particular, implying that workers should live in a particular region at time of application is almost certain to risk indirect race discrimination. A German citizen is most likely to live in Germany and so would be disproportionately impacted by a requirement to live in the UK at time of application and thus be discriminated against. (Asking for the right-to-work in the UK has similar complications, see that section for further details).

Similar issues can arise when dealing with the different nationalities in the UK (e.g English, Scottish, Welsh or Northen Irish candidates) or areas where there are particularly high concentrations of ethnic or other groups.

Insisting a successful candidate should move to a particular location also carries risks. It is always possible that such a requirement results in unintended consequences that become discriminatory. For example, a candidate with a disabled partner may live in a specially-adapted house just outside of the designated zone. Insisting the candidate move could be regarded as discrimination against the employee because of their association with a disabled person.

As always, such requirements must only be enforced where there is a necessary and reasonable justification for doing so. If the role involved being on call to deal with emergency situations, it may be reasonable to expect them to be able to make it to work within a certain timeframe. (This could also be reasonable grounds for requiring a driving licence). As usual, such a requirement must be an essential aspect of the role.

It is also worth considering that most candidates will naturally move to a location suitable for work without having to be prompted.

Note on remote working and the COVID-19 pandemic: The current pandemic has made homeworking far more ubiquitous in recent months. While technology may allow teams to be distributed globally, careful consideration should be given to the legal implications. Examples include cross-border employment legislation, payment arrangements and local tax regulations. In these circumstances, requiring candidates to relocate to the country where the role is based would be reasonable.

In particular example, Erasmus funding can only be awarded when candidates are working in the home country of their host organisation. A UK student on placement with a Spanish company can receive funding while working remotely as long as they are doing so in Spain. They cannot receive funding if they carry out the work remotely in the UK.

As workplaces open up, more employers are stating that candidates should live in the area of their offices. However, for the reasons given above, this can inadvertently lead to forms of discrimination. Instead, state the location of the office and indicate how often in-person attendance will be required.

If you require candidates to undergo a criminal record check before starting work, it is important to be precise about the nature of the checks and clearances required.

There are several sorts of criminal record check available, providing different levels of information and scrutiny of potential applicants:

  • basic check, which shows unspent convictions and conditional cautions
  • standard check, which shows any spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings
  • an enhanced check, which shows the same as a standard check plus any information held by local police that’s considered relevant to the role
  • an enhanced check with barred lists, which shows the same as an enhanced check plus whether you’re on the list of people barred from doing the role

(Source: https://www.gov.uk/criminal-record-checks-apply-role)

The law allows many criminal convictions, cautions, reprimands, etc. to be considered “spent” after a certain period of time. This means that, in most circumstances, employers are not entitled to ask about or receive information about them.

Employers are entitled to ask about unspent convictions in any circumstances and a basic check can be requested by any employer for any role. In addition, if the role in question is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act, you may be able or obligated to apply for more detailed checks.

Care must be taken to ensure that such checks are of the appropriate level. Failing to sufficiently check a candidate’s criminal record can expose your organisation to legal liability (both civil and criminal).

Similarly, it is also potentially unlawful to request these disclosures for roles where they are not justified. An online tool is available to help employers determine the right level of check for their role. Subjecting an applicant to a higher than necessary level of scrutiny can unfairly discourage applicants, who would otherwise be eligible for the role. 

Where security clearances are required, both the level of the check required and the reason must be stated. Further information on National Security Vetting can be found here.

The Employer Engagement and Student Employment Team at the University of Exeter wishes to support employers that are taking positive action to redress under-representation of people with protected characteristics [1]in their workforce. 

What is Positive Action?

The Equality Act permits employers to take measures to improve equality for people who share a protected characteristic. These sorts of measures are known as positive action. Positive action provisions mean that it is not unlawful discrimination to take special measures aimed at alleviating disadvantage or under-representation experienced by those with any of these characteristics.

The Equality Act (S159) allows positive action where an employer believes:

  •  persons who share a protected characteristic suffer a disadvantage connected to the characteristic,
  • persons who share a protected characteristic have needs that are different from the needs of persons who do not share it, or
  • participation in an activity by persons who share a protected characteristic is disproportionately low.

 The Act goes on to state that it allows any action which is a proportionate means of achieving the following aims:

  •  enabling or encouraging persons who share the protected characteristic to overcome or minimise that disadvantage,
  • meeting those needs, or
  • enabling or encouraging persons who share the protected characteristic to participate in that activity.

Relevant examples in the Statutory Code (12.17) include:

  •  targeting advertising at specific disadvantaged groups, for example advertising jobs in media outlets which are likely to be accessed by the target group;
  • making a statement in recruitment advertisements that the employer welcomes applications from the target group, for example ‘older people are welcome to apply’;
  • providing opportunities exclusively to the target group to learn more about particular types of work opportunities with the employer, for example internships or open days;
  • providing training opportunities in work areas or sectors for the target group, for example work placements.

 

What is Positive Discrimination?

It is important to note that positive action is not the same as positive discrimination.

The Employer Statutory Code of Practice (point 12.7) defines positive discrimination as “actions … which involve preferential treatment to benefit members of a disadvantaged or underrepresented group who share a protected characteristic, in order to address inequality”.

If you recruit someone because they have a particular protected characteristic, this is likely to be positive discrimination. Unless clear statutory exemptions apply, positive discrimination is generally unlawful, except in the case of disabled people: “It is important to note that it is not unlawful for an employer to treat a disabled person more favourably compared to a non-disabled person” (Statutory Code, point 12.8).

 

Supporting Positive Action – Requirements and Limitations

We can include positive action measures as part of our general programme of supporting employer recruitment activity. To ensure that the proposed activity meets the condition of positive action and does not risk unlawful positive discrimination, the University has adopted a number of measures as outlined below. 

Evidence Required

To take positive action, “an employer must reasonably think that one of the above conditions applies; that is, disadvantage, different needs or disproportionately low participation. This means that some indication or evidence will be required to show that one of these statutory conditions applies. It does not, however, need to be sophisticated statistical data or research. It may simply involve an employer looking at the profiles of their workforce and/or making enquiries of other comparable employers in the area or sector. Additionally, it could involve looking at national data such as labour force surveys for a national or local picture of the work situation for particular groups who share a protected characteristic. A decision could be based on qualitative evidence, such as consultation with workers and trade unions.” (Statutory Code, pt 12.14)

When necessary, we will ask you to share the basis on which your organisation is taking positive action.

Limitations on Targeting

All positive action measures will be advertised through the appropriate marketing channel, depending on the nature of the measure.

Please be aware that we are unable to target students with specific protected characteristics. This means we cannot, for example, send an email targeting a specific gender or nationality.

We cannot restrict attendance at events (physical or virtual) on the basis of protected characteristics. Rather than focusing on excluding participants, instead make it clear what information and themes will be presented at the session. You should also remember that non-targeted cohorts may have a legitimate interest in the topic: for example, men may be interested in a "Women in Banking session, because they want to work for a progressive employer and/or consider themselves allies of the diversity agenda.

Recruitment Pools

Employers should not use positive action measures to create a pool of potential applicants. Employers can use positive action to encourage under-represented groups to apply or provide training and experience to under-represented groups in order to help them increase participation. They should not use such measures to fast-track applicants through a recruitment process.

 

An Example

Conglomerated Banking wish to increase the number of female applicants to their graduate scheme. To raise awareness of banking in the female student cohort, they decide to run an online event titled “Women in Banking”.

We would advertise this event via our usual platforms. However, we would not be able to email all female students to alert them about the event. Nor would we be able to prevent male students signing up for the event. Any male student that expressed an interest in attending should be allowed to do so.

Conglomerated Banking could also run a summer internship aimed at giving women direct experience of banking. However, it should not fast-track participants in an internship through the normal process for applying to the graduate scheme. Nor should an employer reserve places on its graduate scheme for persons with a specific protected characteristic.



[1] The relevant protected characteristics in employment are: • age • disability • gender reassignment • marriage and civil partnership • pregnancy and maternity • race (including ethnic or national origins, colour and nationality) • religion or belief (including lack of belief) • sex • sexual orientation. Positive action applies to all these protected characteristics.

 

Recruitment Agencies

Recruitment agencies and other recruitment intermediaries must follow certain protocols when posting jobs to our site. Please read the guidelines below for further details.

This policy is relevant for any agency managing recruitment on behalf of another organisation, including recruitment agencies, outsourced HR functions, and job-boards.

Intermediaries should not post general adverts promoting their agency or website. Every advert must relate to a specific vacancy or a recruitment campaign for a specific employer.

We understand many agencies wish to keep the names of their employer clients confidential. However, our duty of care to students may require us to verify the identity of the employer you are acting for. In these circumstances, we may request that you disclose the details of your client to University staff. In some cases we may also ask for contact details.

All such details are disclosed to us on the understanding that:

  • Where requested, disclosure is a condition of advertising i.e. the vacancy will not be accepted unless these details are disclosed;
  • The information will not be made public (e.g. appear on our website or be attached to a specific vacancy or agency);
  • The University may contact your client to verify their wishes regarding advertising.

If more than one agency submits the same vacancy we will act in favour of the first agency to contact us unless instructed otherwise directly by the employer. If an agency submits a vacancy already advertised by the employer in their own right or the employer submits a vacancy already sourced through an agency, we will advertise the employer’s own vacancy (removing / rejecting the agency versions as necessary) unless instructed otherwise directly by the employer.