The Secret LPCer – Discrimination

Just how diverse in the work place are we truly? Several hundred applications for pupillage and training contracts are made each year to law firms and Chambers by budding young candidates. Most applications require candidates to complete an equality diversity monitoring form in the spirit of the Equality Act 2010. In spite of this, criticism has levied at the constituencies of the legal field. It is still believed that applications from white males are favoured over ethnic and female applicants. If be true, are employers to blame or does the increase in tuition fees revert employment back to a history of racial and gender exclusion from the workplace in the United Kingdom?

A Discrimination Issue?

An application from a female Chinese candidate for a paralegal position in a reputable law firm lays on the desk of its recruitment manager, alongside an application from a Caucasian male candidate with lesser experience. The formers name may be difficult to pronounce and a telephone call to the candidate may embarrass the employer should he pronounce her name incorrectly.

The following questions then materialises are ethnic groups discriminated against in employment situations and how does one examine this? Southam,[1] an employee involved in the recruitment of new candidates for a company based in Australia revealed that her manager ‘culled out any resumes that had names that were too hard for him to pronounce.’[2] Research carried out by a group of individuals revealed, after the submission of over 4000 fake resumes identical except for the applicant’s name, a Chinese applicant must submit 68 per cent more applications than a candidate with an Anglo-Saxon name.[3] A Middle Eastern applicant would have to submit 64 per cent more, whilst for an indigenous application it would be 35 per cent and for an Italian applicant it would be 12 per cent more.[4]

Reported Cases in the UK

A series of cases have been reported in the United Kingdom, whereby rejected ethnic applicants have resubmitted their CV using an Anglo-Saxon name with positive result.  This is unsurprising as figures reveal that, applicants with white names in the UK only were required to submit 10 resumes to get one call-back whereas an African-American name needed to send around 15 for a single call-back.[5]

Qamar Mohammed Malik, a Pakistan born applicant whose residency was in the UK had been told by a member of Amec that there were no suitable vacancies for his experience as a quality inspector.[6] Max Kpakio, an African national had his CV rejected for a position within Sir Richard Brandson’s call centre for a reason unknown. The former submitted a revised CV, one which detailed lesser qualifications resulting in a call to arrange an interview within 3 hours of the submission. The tribunal ruled out discrimination in Mr Malik’s case, finding that the case was not one of discrimination but of a break in the communication between a former member of Amec and Mr Malik. Mr Kapkio on the other hand, showcased new experiences on his CV adding an additional five years of customer facing experience. The defendant’s argued that the new experiences in Mr Kapkio’s revised CV was the determining factor and “If [Mr Kapkio] really wanted to test them [he could] have done so by simply changing the name and ticking a different ethnic box on the equal opportunities form.”[7]

Final Thoughts

The rise of tuition fees to £9000 per year for most undergraduate courses leans in favour towards the argument that students from lower-class backgrounds are deterred from entering education -a government system which hinders the achievement of diversity in the legal profession. This argument lacks the merits to be sustainable as more student loans are being offered to prospective undergraduates and postgraduates in pursuit of education. In alleged discrimination cases, the tribunal takes the view that the process involved in the selection of candidates is more rigorous then perceived by applicants.

[1]http://advertisers.careerone.com.au/hr/hr-best-practices/recruiting-hiring-advice/screening-job-candidates/beware-resume-racism.aspx

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] ibid

[5] http://www.nber.org/digest/sep03/w9873.html

[6] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/7079199.stm

[7] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-22163776

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