You’re a fit and healthy young guy. The job’s yours!
According to the Office for National Statistics, the percentage of women employed across the whole economy has almost become equal at 46.8% . However, when focussing on sectors such as manual labour, in particular the construction industry, out of the 2.3 billion employed, only 12.4% were women, and 2.6% were woman over the age of 55 .This begs the question, is gender and age discrimination still occurring, and is this ever acceptable?
Danger Zone, Men at Work
The primary goal in any business is to thrive economically; this much must match the reality of the selection and recruitment process. When considering a manual labour job, a young, healthy male is what comes to mind.
The longer a new employee must train in their new position, the more money and time is being invested in one person. The faster they reach the required productivity rate, the more the business benefits economically. For example, an older female recruit could require more training, as she might be less physically able and may take longer to retain information.
The business could reduce spending in areas related to health insurance as the young male employee is less likely to get injured at work or take time off due to a work-related accident, or an existing ailment. For example, women are almost 50% more likely to take sick days than men . In this way, the recruitment of the young male employee is also a more informed decision to meet the required safety regulations. Ultimately, economically and logistically, employing a more able employee makes more business sense.
Meeting health and safety regulations in a job is the priority. But are age and gender really the right measure of how safely someone can carry out their work? Aptitude tests are far more suitable and adaptable to the job. It is easy to imagine an older woman being more capable than a younger man, for reasons other than demographics. Other than having had more general experience, there are crucial personality traits to consider. For instance, she may be naturally more diligent than the younger man. She might be in a more settled stage of life, meaning she could be more reliable, whilst the younger man could be looking to move on to a new job quickly. The investment of training time and money is better spent on someone who can commit more to the company. Men are less likely to go to the doctor and less inclined to “access disease screening or seek professional support”, meaning that health issues with female employees are more likely to be caught early, reducing the amount of time off needed .
The Measure of Man
A disability cannot stop you from doing a job and in some cases this is just, but sometimes it will be the case that the disability means that you won’t be as capable or adaptable as someone without it. Jobs do change and require workers to adapt and in some cases a disability will stop someone being able to do this. Let’s look at a bricklayer with arthritis who has joined the company. His first job is a bungalow renovation which he has no problems with as he does not need to climb stairs. However, the next job is three stories up and the worker cannot reach it. It makes practical sense for the company to hire someone fit and healthy so they can adapt to all jobs put before them. Not only this, if the worker pushes themselves to climb the stairs it risks the arthritis getting worse and being further detrimental to the individuals health. Therefore, for ethical reasons to stop worker injury, the company should not hire him.
Making assumptions about applicants is difficult to avoid, as the question of how you define discrimination is a grey area. Information on a CV is very limited; what you gain from meeting face-to-face is a far clearer picture of someone’s character.
For manual labour work, a person’s fitness level is a standard measure, and avoids discrimination against age and gender in a very practical sense. But is discrimination against fitness acceptable? How would a highly qualified amputee applying for a physical job feel if they were turned down after the interview? Whether or not the reason really was that they thought they were incapable dueto being an amputee, the assumption is it was.
Simply because an applicant is a male in his 20s doesn’t equate to suitable physical attributes. A more reliable method of working out the suitability of an applicant would be a series of medical tests, aptitude tests, and interviews to find the best candidates, irrespective of age or sex. Regardless of how a company runs its recruitment process, discrimination of some form, particularly for a role with physical demands, will occur. However, companies also focus on other factors when reviewing job applications, such as experience in the sector, the role being applied for, or evidence of achievements in which a good standard of physical fitness is demonstrated. For example, if a candidate was recently in the military.
While the business’ justification would be that they don’t want to risk the person they hire being a detriment to the company due to their gender or disability, the ethical standpoint is that everyone should have the same opportunities. The only factor which leads to the discrimination of some candidates over others is bias assumptions. We have based our standpoint on the following points:
- The for arguments are making assumptions that gender and disability means someone is less suitable for the job.
- Gender diversity is important as it bring different way of thinking to an environment, even if there’s a stigma in a specific industry.
- Deciding that someone is less capable on the basis that they have a disability instead of on their aptitude is unethical and shows unconscious bias.
Therefore, it is our belief that discrimination is not acceptable before interview. However, when the work itself is a health risk to the individual, this is a situation where it could be fair to discriminate.