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The terminology used at all stages of the recruitment process (in advertisements, person specifications and informal communications) can send various discriminatory signals. Using terminology with a discriminatory emphasis is unlawful, unless it can be justified due to the nature of the job. You should ensure that specific groups of people are not being alienated or excluded

To avoid claims of sex discrimination you should avoid job titles that imply that the applicant must be male or female such as 'handyman' or 'salesgirl', unless this is a genuine occupational requirement.

Using more subtly gendered terms such as 'tough', 'competitive', or 'nurturing' may also send signals that one sex is preferred over the other.

Similarly, various terms can signal that a person from a particular age group is better suited for the job; for example, 'energetic', 'young and dynamic', 'mature'. Specific age limits should always be avoided unless there is a genuine occupational requirement that the candidate be of a certain age. 

See further information about wording adverts to avoid discrimination against people with disabilities

There is no definitive list of terms that will give rise to a claim of discrimination. The best way to avoid discrimination is to be explicit about what is required. For example:

  • 'needs to reach and bend to pick items from shelves', rather than 'needs to be physically fit'
  • 'needs to give clear information to clients by phone', rather than, 'needs a good command of spoken English'
  • 'experience of drafting contracts', rather than 'experienced'

More advice for businesses

Business Link offers practical help whatever the size of your business.


Minister responsible

David Willetts is the minister responsible for this policy area.


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