Sarah Furness, Partner, Employment & HR
Anyone who is trying to recruit at the moment will most likely tell you what a long and difficult process finding the right person for their vacancy has been.
With the unemployment rate at historically low levels, a significant number of people deciding to change direction in the wake of the pandemic and work permit issues relating to Brexit, businesses in pretty much every industry sector are facing a struggle to find new recruits with the skills they need and at a cost which is affordable to them due to ever increasing salaries.
The cost-of-living crisis is also contributing to salaries in some professions being at an all-time high.
This situation is putting extra pressure on business owners and those running recruitment processes, as the number of vacancies is having a serious impact on businesses’ ability to fulfil their clients’ needs.
So, if you’re in this situation, here are a few ideas that might help you achieve your recruitment objectives while also avoiding any potential problems and staying on the right side of the law:
Consider how attractive your recruitment process is to applicants. Query is the application process user friendly, is the job role and the pay and benefits it attracts clear, are you presenting your organisation in a professional manner during the process by being responsive, approachable and professional? First impressions make lasting impressions!
Think about ways to attract candidates to you. Of course, pay and benefits are important, but are you clearly advertising your business’s approach to training, career development and progression? CSR, environmental/sustainability policies and home working are also important now to many job seekers.
Make sure you fully understand and act on your recruitment and equal opportunities policies and shape your recruitment process within their boundaries. Job applicants can pursue discrimination claims if they are unsuccessful. Particular attention should be paid to the need to make reasonable adjustments for disabled candidates with questions about a candidate’s health or attendance record usually being prohibited. All employees involved in the recruitment process should have undergone equal opportunities training, while getting a legal opinion on any issues about which they’re not sure makes great sense.
Most job adverts/descriptions ask for very specific qualifications, experience and personal qualities, which some able candidates might find too prescriptive, so make sure to distinguish between what’s essential and what’s desirable. If you regularly demand full-time working in your job adverts, have a think about whether full-time working in particular is essential or desirable. Many care givers prefer to work shorter days or four days per week and often this can be accommodated with a shift in mindset. Demanding full-time working can also lead to a risk of sex discrimination claims being pursued as employment tribunals readily accept more women than men provide caring responsibilities in their personal lives.
Having an equitable and rigid assessment process, where candidates are asked the same questions which are testing and relevant to the job, is essential, while involving two or more people in the assessment process will help ensure objectives decisions are reached at its end.
However impressive a candidate is and however keen you are for them to start work, make sure that you follow up on their references to confirm they are everything they say they are. Job offers should be conditional until references are verified along with other mandatory checks such as right to work checks and often, DBS checks. If job offers aren’t conditional and you withdraw a job offer, you will probably have to pay the notice period referred to in the offer letter.
Failing to provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates can increase the likelihood of claims that they didn’t get the job on discriminatary grounds. Keep notes of the shortlisting process, interviews and discussions afterwards, along with application forms, adverts and job descriptions, just in case they’re required as evidence in any discrimination claim. Make sure they are however destroyed at some stage further to your data protection obligations!
When a new employee does start, make sure they are provided with a full induction and training, and that expectations for their performance are set, agreed and reviewed. Detailed job descriptions can assist here. If expectations aren’t being met, use the employee’s probationary period to conduct regular reviews and clearly outline the improvements that need to be made and by when and provide full support. Failing an employee’s probationary period should be the last resort so invest the time during the probationary period to make sure the time and money you spent investing in the recruitment process is not wasted!