Recruitment transparency 'difficult to legislate,’ says MBIE

MPs call for 'courtesy,' urge employers to 'write back' to unsuccessful job applicants

Recruitment transparency 'difficult to legislate,’ says MBIE

Mandating employers to disclose their reasons for not moving forward with the application of a jobseeker would be difficult, according to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), following a recent petition that sought to legislate recruitment transparency in the workplace.

Jobseeker Ana Briggs recommended last year to the House of Representatives a law mandating employers to let unsuccessful job applicants know exactly why they're not being hired.

According to Briggs, employers are under no legal obligation to tell anyone why they weren't hired, raising the possibility that discrimination during the hiring process could be at play.

"The law says that employers can't not hire you on illegal grounds, but there's also no law that says employers have to tell you why you didn't get hired. So, discrimination might be happening every day," Briggs said in her petition.  

In New Zealand, the Human Rights Commission revealed that it received over 60 complaints between January 2020 and December 2022 from job seekers who alleged that they have been "unlawfully discriminated against when applying for a job."

‘Difficult to legislate’

But Charlotte de Freijter, principal policy adviser from the MBIE, said it would be "difficult to legislate" such a mandate.

"It would continue to be difficult to prove the reasons the employer gave were genuine, which would make any law attempting to address the issue difficult to enforce," said the official during the hearing.

In New Zealand, job applicants can also ask why they were rejected for a job under Principle 6 of the Privacy Act, according to the Privacy Commission.

"An individual is entitled to request information held in in the mind, and this might encompass the reasons an application was not progressed. The information, or reasons, might be as simple as 'there were more qualified applicants' – and it would be almost impossible for an investigation by this Office to prove or disprove that response," the office said in its response.

Employers urged to 'write back'

The report of the Petitions Committee released in March 2023 said members of Parliament (MP) accept the MBIE's view that it would be very difficult to require employers to provide complete information on the reasons why they did not proceed with a job applicant.

However, the MPs still urged employers to "write back" to job seekers who were unsuccessful.

"I really hope any employers watching this really hear you about just how important it is to be respectful and to write back to people and let them know why they missed out on an opportunity," MP Rachel Boyack told Briggs during the hearing.

MP Todd Muller, who shared that he had recruitment experience while working for Kiwifruit cooperative Zespri, said employers are often focused on only talking to the final five job applicants and neglect to inform the rest why they're not getting hired.

"What you're really asking for is courtesy when you engage and… people should be treated with courtesy and it's a timely reminder when you put your petition in front of us," Muller also told Briggs.

The committee also praised Briggs for raising the matter to lawmakers and put her in touch with her local MPs and other organisations that help people looking for work.

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