Are your job ads breaching the Human Rights Act?

Choose your wording carefully when drafting your next job advertisement or you could potentially be in breach of the Human Rights Act.

Employers could be unknowingly breaching the Age Discrimination Act with their recruitment campaigns.

Terms which are commonly used in job advertisements could be culpable for such breaches, including “young”, “recent graduate,” and “new graduate”.

Although not all of these terms explicitly refer to young people, as statistically candidates fresh from university are likely to be aged 24 or younger in Australia.

Countless advertisements online specify that available jobs are for “recent graduates” with some even reserving their vacancies for “young” individuals.

HC spoke to Philip Brewin, director at Nevett Ford, about the use of this terminology.

“Under our Age Discrimination act it is certainly unlawful to treat a person less favourably because of age,” he said. “If someone applied and didn’t get the job they would be able to complain – the philosophy behind age discrimination is not to treat someone in a predetermined way because of their age. One should not use the word young – it’s very dangerous in my view.”

Brewin said that there are circumstances in which recruiters do use terms such as “young” and “enthusiastic” to advertise vacancies, while some employers hint that older candidates will not be successful without explicitly using the word “young”.  

“Again it would be arguable that it is discrimination in these situations, but it is not as clear cut,” Brewin told HC. “It’s best to avoid any risk.”

He said that advertising for “fresh thinking” candidates or “new graduates” is also risky, and could discriminate against graduates who are equally qualified despite not being fresh out of university.

The issue arose internationally following a report in the UK from the BBC. 

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