"I don't want a male member of staff"

Raj Dhokia of Freedman Green Dhokia Solicitors, answers a retailer’s question about what you can and can’t say when advertising for staff

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Q If you are advertising for staff, is there a way you must word your advert to ensure you comply with legalities? Obviously, I don’t want a male member of staff as I am a small bridal shop with all-female customers, but can I say ‘female only’ and can I specify an age group?
A
The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 specifically prohibits discriminatory advertising except in clearly specified circumstances. This limitation includes adverts which specify that an application should be made by a member of a particular sex. Advertising specifically for a “female only” can be deemed as direct discrimination because it is treating males less favourably on the grounds of their sex.
However, there are exceptions to the Act and an employer may limit a job to members of one sex only, if being a member of that sex is a “genuine occupational qualification” for the job. So, in circumstances whereby people are likely to be in a state of undress, (a bridal shop is a good example) requiring the position to be held by persons of a certain sex so that decency or privacy may be upheld, would be considered an exception. However, in order to avoid possible claims it is advisable that you do not state “female only” in your ad.
In terms of specifying an age group, the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations, 2006 state that it is unlawful to specify an ideal age for a job applicant when advertising - advertising for someone between the ages of 30 and 40 for example would be deemed to be direct discrimination. In order to avoid any possible claim against them, no ideal age group should be specified by an employer upon placing an advert.

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