The UK needs to implement “name blind recruitment”

The CMF Executive considers it essential for the UK to introduce “name blind recruitment”.

LEGAL BACKGROUND

For many it has been illegal to discriminate when making recruitment decisions. The current law is set out in Equality Act 2010. EqA 2010 section 4 specifies nine protected characteristics, which are:

  1. age;
  2. disability;
  3. gender reassignment;
  4. marriage and civil partnership;
  5. pregnancy and maternity;
  6. race;
  7. religion or belief;
  8. sex;
  9. sexual orientation.

EqA 2010  does not number the characteristics, but we have done so for ease of reference.

Discrimination is defined in EqA 2010 Chapter 2. In particular, in EqA 2010 s13(1):

“A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.”

EqA 2010 Part 5 applies to ‘Work’ and protects a wide range of individuals and corporate members within the field of work (employment, occupation and vocational training). Within that Chapter 1 applies to employment, section 39(1) states:

“An employer (A) must not discriminate against a person (B)—

  1. in the arrangements A makes for deciding to whom to offer employment;
  2. as to the terms on which A offers B employment;
  3. by not offering B employment.”

There is of course much more detailed legislation in EqA 2010. These provisions are similar to those found in the previous discrimination legislation, meaning that old case law remains relevant. The one main change is that the provisions do not refer to discrimination in relation to employment at “an establishment in Great Britain“: they are silent as to their territorial scope.

THE PERSISTENCE OF DISCRIMINATION

Despite discrimination in employment being unlawful, it persists.

To quote then Prime Minister David Cameron from his Conservative Party Conference 2015 speech:

“But let’s be honest. For too many people, even a good education isn’t enough. There are other barriers that stand in their way.

Picture this. You’ve graduated with a good degree. You send out your CV far and wide. But you get rejection after rejection. What’s wrong? It’s not the qualifications or the previous experience.

It’s just two words at the top: first name, surname.  Do you know that in our country today: even if they have exactly the same qualifications, people with white-sounding names are nearly twice as likely to get call backs for jobs than people with ethnic-sounding names?

This is a true story. One young black girl had to change her name to Elizabeth before she got any calls to interviews. That, in 21st century Britain, is disgraceful.

We can talk all we want about opportunity, but it’s meaningless unless people are really judged equally. Think about it like this.

Opportunity doesn’t mean much to a British Muslim if he walks down the street and is abused for his faith.

Opportunity doesn’t mean much to a black person constantly stopped and searched by the police because of the colour of their skin.

Opportunity doesn’t mean much to a gay person rejected for a job because of the person they love.

It doesn’t mean much to a disabled person prevented from doing what they’re good at because of who they are.

I’m a dad of two daughters – opportunity won’t mean anything to them if they grow up in a country where they get paid less because of their gender rather than how good they are at their work.

The point is this: you can’t have true opportunity without real equality.  And I want our party to get this right. Yes us, the party of the fair chance; the party of the equal shot……the party that doesn’t care where you come from, but only where you’re going……us, the Conservatives, I want us to end discrimination and finish the fight for real equality in our country today.”

Many experiments have been done, where employers are sent identical CVs, but with different names at the top of the CV. Names that suggest the applicant is a Muslim, or of foreign birth, or of Afro-Caribbean ethnicity, are much less likely to lead to an interview than names which imply that the sender is white British.

The evidence is overwhelming. We have listed just a few sources below:

8 August 2015 — New Study Confirms Depressing Truth About Names And Racial Bias

6 February 2017 — Is it easier to get a job if you’re Adam or Mohamed?

23 May 2017 — Here’s why you didn’t get that job: your name

13 September 2017 — A New Study On Name Discrimination Suggests Names Signaling Race Are Also Linked To Social Status

6 February 2019 — Employers’ Replies to Racial Names

WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?

Accordingly, one needs to consider what measures can be taken to stamp it out.

Legal action against employers who discriminate is of course important. However, it should not be the only remedy. We need practical measures that both make a difference directly, and also assist employers in their legal duty not to discriminate.

We consider that one practical change that should be introduced is “name blind recruitment.”

Under this, people applying for jobs would not disclose their names on the initial job application form or the CV sent with the initial job application.

Today more and more initial job applications are made online, and it would be a straightforward matter for the job application website to eliminate the requirement for the applicant’s name. The computer system could generate an identification number to allow the application to be uniquely identified in future.

For applications made by postal mail, the applicant would give a return postal address as at present, but without a personal name. For residences where many people receive post in the same letterbox, arrangements  using, what are clearly pseudonymous names such as “John Doe” (the classical name used in US legal judgements) could be used. This is one practical arrangement which can be easily implemented into a working practice..

Name blind recruitment would not, of itself, eliminate discrimination in the recruitment process. Such discrimination may well occur later in the process, for example after the interview has taken place. However, it forms the part of a new narrative and positive approach against discrimination.

It would also have two further important benefits:

  1. It would make discrimination during the initial screening of job applications much less likely, since the main identifiers used by people who discriminate would have disappeared.
  2. The job application process being name blind would be a continuing reminder to all people involved in recruitment that discrimination is legally prohibited, as well as in virtually all cases being a violation of their organisation’s written recruitment policies.

 

IMPLEMENTATION

We consider that the Government should begin by mandating name blind recruitment for all public sector jobs. Section 149 of the EqA 2010 created a single public sector equality duty covering all strands of discrimination law. Therefore, public authorities are already required to have regard to (amongst other things) “eliminating conduct that is prohibited by the EqA 2010, including breaches of non-discrimination rules in occupational pension schemes and equality clauses or rules

The Government should go further and publish guidance notes for employers based on its practical experience of using name blind recruitment.

In due course, the Government can take account of the outcomes, and hopefully legislate to make name blind recruitment mandatory for all UK employers.

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