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Recruiters Discriminate According To Name

October 25 2009 - Research reported last week by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) shows that race discrimination is still present in UK recruitment.

The National Centre for Social Research conducted the research between November 2008 and May 2009. They sent out three very similar applications to 987 advertised job vacancies - a total of 2,961 applications - across a particular set of areas and occupations. Applications were made to private, public and voluntary sector employers of varying sizes. One name from each group of three was 'White British' and the other two were from different ethnic minority groups. The names were assigned at random to different applications. All applications had UK education and work histories. According to the DWP, 'Discrimination was measured as differential treatment at an aggregate level between the ethnic groups in the study.'

Some of the names (established by testing) used were:

  • Nazia Mahmood - Pakistani/Bangladeshi Female
  • Muhammed Kahlid - Pakistani/Bangladeshi Male
  • Mariam Namagembe - Black African Female
  • Anthony Olukayode - Black African Male
  • Alison Taylor White - British Female
  • Andrew Clarke White - British Male

The responses showed that applications with names suggesting they were from an ethnic minority, as opposed to white British, were discriminated against. While white applicants had to send out 9 applications to obtain a positive response, equally good applicants with ethnic minority names had to send sixteen.

It is worth noting that public sector vacancies included in the research, usually requiring standard application forms, did not discriminate at the initial stage of recruitment.

According to Jim Knight, Minister for Employment and Welfare Reform:

"This research clearly shows that some employers are discriminating when it comes to choosing staff. This has no place in a modern society and racial discrimination cannot be allowed to continue.

"We introduced laws to stop discrimination at work and strengthened them in 2000. We also introduced new diversity and equality requirements in DWP contracts with suppliers. Employees can use the Race Relations Act to take employers to a tribunal if they are being treated unfairly and they will also get support and advice from the European Human Rights Commission to do so.

"We are determined to stop this scourge on society - the Equality Bill will strengthen our hand and we are already preparing to publish specific plans for dealing with discrimination in the workplace later this year."

Sandra Kerr, National Campaign Director, Race for Opportunity commented:

"Race for Opportunity welcomes all research into the ethnic minority employment gap and, in particular, into the reasons why ethnic minorities remain underrepresented in the UK workforce. However, it is important that we work beyond the headlines, and concentrate on addressing the causes for this unfairness."

Kevin Green, Chief Executive of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC), said:

"There is a question mark as to whether an undercover operation is the best way of driving the diversity agenda forward. However, we agree with the conclusions of the report that there is still some way to go in challenging discriminatory behaviour.

"What this report shows is that more work needs to be done in educating employers of the business benefits that can result from having a positive attitude to diversity in the recruitment process. Small organisations in particular may not have the resources to adopt proactive diversity strategies themselves and need a helping hand.

"This is where the UK's recruitment industry can add value. According to research by the CIPD, 78 per cent of employers use recruitment agencies to help them in their recruitment which means recruiters are in an ideal position to educate and assist small employers.

"The REC has constantly demonstrated the recruitment industry's commitment to eradicating race discrimination through initiatives such as the Diversity Pledge and Diversity Assured. REC is currently working with Race for Opportunity, the EHRC and others on rooting out discriminatory behaviour."



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