11th November 2015

What's in a name?

How much can you tell about a person from two printed words on a piece of paper? It is possible to potentially work out quite a lot about a person from their name. A name can let you know the sex of the person, or their race. It could potentially let you estimate a person’s age. This is quite a lot of information from just two words. However none of this information will determine whether or not they are the right person for a job. Despite this, it is a recruiter’s first impression on an applicant. Whether it is conscious or subconscious, the applicant’s name is likely to have an affect on how the recruiter reads the remainder of the application. This certainly has the potential to be discriminatory. The information which you can deduce from a name (sex, race, age) can give rise to claims of discrimination.

The Prime Minister hosted a round table discussion this week with a number of the major employers in the UK. The results of the discussion could have a drastic impact on the way employers recruit staff. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss discrimination, whether it be conscious or subconscious, in recruitment and the proposal of name-blind recruitment. Name-blind recruitment involves carrying out the initial recruitment process without having sight of the applicant’s name. Large employers such as the Civil Service, Teach First, HSBC, Deloitte, Virgin Money, KPMG, BBC, NHS and local government are set to commit the scheme. With so many large employers implementing these changes, and regular promotions from CIPD on their benefits, it is likely that other businesses will be pressured into following similar schemes. In truth, it is hard to argue against implementing them.

Really employers should be asking themselves why are they putting themselves in a position where discrimination is a possibility? The name-blind scheme almost removes this possibility in its entirety. It may mean that employers have to spend more time sifting through the meat of the applications, but this is the information which will help you find the right person for the job. This is where the qualities of the applicant are found. Without any preconceptions created by a name, whether they are conscious or unconscious, employers will be able to read through the application and make a decision purely on the qualities of the applicant.

Overall a scheme that avoids any potential discrimination, and helps hire the best applicant for the job definitely has to be worth a consideration!

Andrew Wallace
Solicitor – Employment Law

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