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Equality in the workplace

Information for students and graduates with particular needs

Some students may have particular concerns or needs when it comes to entering the working world. Some common areas of concern are addressed below.

If you have any particular concerns or questions please feel free to contact us for a free impartial confidential discussion with a careers adviser. In all our services we are committed to equal treatment of all students and graduates, and our services are governed by the principle of respect, which means that we believe that a student or graduate is ultimately the best judge of their options and we do not ‘tell people what to do’ but seek to support the decision making processes through exploring options and providing information.

Age

The legal situation: Discrimination by recruiters on the grounds of age has been unlawful since 2005.

If you feel you have experienced or are experiencing discrimination then you may wish to seek advice on how to challenge this. A great deal of information and advice is available from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Practical tips for jobseekers: Even though discrimination on the grounds of age is unlawful, some older students and graduates can feel anxious about how their age may affect them in the workplace and in job applications. Here it is worth remembering that employers often form an opinion on a person prior to interview, and the opinion that they form may well be influenced by stereotypes. It is good practice in applications to try to work out how you might come across and address any concerns of employers that you can anticipate.

When it comes to age, some stereotypes around age are that older applicants may be too ‘stuck in their ways’ and difficult to train, that they may not have very high computer literacy and that they may not ‘get on with’ younger employees. Younger applicants may also be impacted upon by stereotypes and these can include stereotypes that they are immature, lacking business awareness, and unable to ‘get on with’ more mature employees.

Applications can subtly address some of these perceptions. For example if you are a mature recent graduate you could use  your recent study as an example to demonstrate that you are keen to learn, flexible and able to get on with younger students. If you are a young graduate then emphasising recent work experience may help to show your business awareness and ability to get on with all ages of workers.

Disability

The legal situation: The 2010 Equality Act made it unlawful for employers (except the armed forces) to treat people with disabilities less favourably than anyone else, the only exception is where a disability would prevent an employee from actually doing a job. However, even in these circumstances employers must be willing to make ‘reasonable adjustments’  such as considering flexible working hours or providing special equipment.

If you feel you have experienced or are experiencing discrimination then you may wish to seek advice on how to challenge this. A great deal of information and advice is available from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Practical tips for jobseekers: it may be particularly useful for you to look out for employers who have a positive attitude to disability, for example look for the ‘two ticks’ symbol on their adverts – this symbol is awarded by jobcentre plus and it means that the employer who displays this symbol has a commitment to interview all disabled applicants who meet the minimum criteria for a job vacancy and to consider them on their abilities.

When it comes to applications it is useful to remember that employers form opinions about you before you attend for interview. These opinions will be influenced by what you have written on your application form (or CV) and may also be influenced by stereotypes. Stereotypes surrounding disability may include employers thinking you are less capable than you actually are. In addition, as part time and temporary work may be more difficult to find for applicants with a disability, it may be that you have struggled to find work experience. You can address this by emphasising your skills and abilities on your application form and using examples from your personal life if you don’t have examples from work. In addition it is important not to be put off from seeking voluntary work, work experience and part time jobs, all of these are available to people with disabilities, even if they are more difficult to find. It is important to seek opportunities to develop your work-related skills where you can.

You may also wonder when you should disclose a disability. The best advice is to fully disclose disabilities that would affect the job you would be doing early in the process of applying. Many application forms include a question about disability, if there is nowhere to disclose disability, or you would prefer to discuss your circumstances face to face it may be best to disclose disability at an interview instead. In general early disclosure is often best as this shows an employer that you are confident and enables them to fully consider adjustments they need to make, both in terms of the job and in terms of interviews or selection tests. If a disability is neither visible nor relevant (such as some mental health issues) then you have more leeway about whether or not to disclose and at what point.

Details of the destinations of people with disabilities who graduated in 2013 is available in the AGCAS report ‘What Happens next’

Sexual Orientation

The legal situation: The Sexual Orientation Regulations 2003 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of ‘sexual orientation’ in employment. If you feel you have experienced or are experiencing discrimination then you may wish to seek advice on how to challenge this. A great deal of information and advice is available from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Practical tips for jobseekers: The choice to disclose sexuality during jobsearch or subsequent employment is a personal one. You should not be asked to disclose your sexuality during the application process or in application forms, although sometimes application forms will include a separate monitoring form (which is held apart from the application itself). Sexual orientation should be discussed (by you or the employer) only where it is relevant to the role for which you are applying. Sometimes it may be that you would disclose your sexuality as a by-product of demonstrating your abilities for the job, for example if you were the Student’s Association LGBT representative then you may talk about this role on your application form or in interview in terms of the responsibilities you had or the skills you showed.

When you are looking for work you may wish to identify employers who have a positive attitude to LGBT employees. You can do this by looking for equality statements on application forms and in literature about the company, in addition Stonewall provide details of employers who are ‘diversity champions’ in their ‘Starting Out’ guide, which is available online, and which is available in hard copy at your local UHI Academic Partner college.

Race

The legal situation: It is illegal for employers to discriminate on the grounds of race.

If you feel you have experienced or are experiencing discrimination then you may wish to seek advice on how to challenge this. A great deal of information and advice is available from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Practical tips for jobseekers: Although direct discrimination on the grounds of race is illegal, potential employees may meet prejudice from employers or from other members of staff. A particular area of concern for some jobseekers is how to manage ‘foreign’ sounding surnames, and how to describe jobs or education from other countries. Generally good practice is not to try and ‘hide’ foreign surnames or qualifications. In some cases though, you may decide to alter the titles of qualifications or jobs to an English equivalent, such as ‘school leaving certificate’, or ‘general assistant’,  as this can help employers understand what kind of qualifications you hold, and what kind of experience you have had.

It may be beneficial to seek work experience or voluntary work in different contexts, so that you can show that you are able to get on with people from all different kinds of backgrounds. It can also help to show that you have experience of the British working contexts and are committed to the geographical area in which you want to seek work.

When you are looking for work you may wish to identify employers who have a positive attitude to equality of opportunity and diversity. You can do this by looking for equality statements on application forms and in literature about the company. It may also be worth looking at the images the company uses of employees and customers to identify whether people from diverse backgrounds are represented.

Religion

The legal situation: It is illegal for employers to discriminate on the grounds of religion, and this also covers Athiests and people with particular philosophical beliefs. In addition employers must put in place appropriate practices including allowing appropriate breaks, leave for religious holidays and fasts, and dress code.

If you feel you have experienced or are experiencing discrimination then you may wish to seek advice on how to challenge this. A great deal of information and advice is available from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Practical tips for jobseekers: Disclosure of religious belief is, in many cases, a personal choice. You should not be asked to disclose your religious beliefs during the application process or in application forms, although sometimes application forms will include a separate monitoring form (which is held apart from the application itself). During interviews religion should be discussed (by you or the employer) only where it is relevant to the role for which you are applying. Sometimes it may be that you would disclose your religion as a by-product of demonstrating your abilities for the job, for example if you have been involved in teaching at a Sunday school then you may talk about this role on your application form or in interview in order to demonstrate your teaching skills, or experience working with children.

When you are looking for work you may wish to identify employers who have a positive attitude to equality of opportunity and diversity. You can do this by looking for equality statements on application forms and in literature about the company. It may also be worth looking at the images the company uses of employees and customers to identify whether people from diverse backgrounds are represented.

Gender

The legal situation: The Equality Act in 2010 made it illegal for employers to discriminate against people because of their sex. Areas covered by the act include recruitment as well as employment terms and conditions, benefits, training, promotion opportunities, redundancy and dismissal. In addition the Employment Act of 2002 granted parents of young children the right to ask for flexible working.

If you feel you have experienced or are experiencing discrimination then you may wish to seek advice on how to challenge this. A great deal of information and advice is available from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

Practical tips for jobseekers: Although men and women are entitled to be treated equally in the workplace, different types of employment tend to attract a different gender profile, with more women in employment in the public sector and men in the private sector for example. In addition there are certain professions which are more male or female dominated. Along with gender can come stereotypes, for example that women are better at communication, caring and team-playing, and men are better at leading, managing and practical tasks. These stereotypes may come into play in some recruitment settings, and it can be useful to consider how stereotypes such as these may impact on how you are perceived by potential employers, as you can then take steps to address these potential prejudices – for example if you are a man who wants to get into childcare you may find it useful to seek work experience working with children to demonstrate that you possess the child-care skills that are more often associated with women.

When you are looking for work in a sector that is dominated by the other gender, you may wish to identify employers who have a positive attitude to equality of opportunity and diversity. You can do this by looking for equality statements on application forms and in literature about the company. It may also be worth looking at the images the company uses of employees and customers to identify whether a good mix of genders is represented.

Other areas

This section of the Careers and Employability Centre website has mostly focused on equality of opportunity. However depending on your situation there may be other particular sets of circumstances that impact on your career decisions and job search. If you are concerned about how your circumstances may impact on you then please remember that you can contact the Careers Adviser for a free impartial and confidential discussion about your situation, your career and your job search.