Legal To Hire ‘Fewer White Men’?
3 Minute Read
3 Minute Read

Headlines on December 23 boldly declared it was not discrimination to ‘want to hire fewer white men’ following the tribunal ruling in Palmer v AIMS Market. However, on closer inspection, it is not as clear as the headlines would have you believe.

What is the Palmer v AIMS Market case?

In the Palmer case, an unsuccessful recruitment candidate (Palmer) claimed that he was told at an interview that the business wanted to hire ‘fewer white men’, and that when he was not offered the position he had been subject to discrimination. The finding of the tribunal is not as simple as perhaps has been made out and does have some nuance to it.

Firstly, the Tribunal when deciding on what actually happened, stated that whilst they believed ‘something was said about this’ there had in fact been a general discussion about diversity in recruitment (the position being recruited for was Head of HR) and that the business hoped to achieve a diverse workforce that did not exclusively comprise, for example white men.

The tribunal accepted that how this was specifically phrased was difficult to pin down, however, the finding was that it was to the effect that the company hoped to achieve a position where there were fewer white men as a proportion of the workforce.

What did the tribunal decide?

They did not find that they wanted to specifically discriminate against Mr Palmer for this position and that the intention was by not appointing him that he would be one fewer ‘white man’. The tribunal found it was acceptable for the panel to discuss with a senior HR recruit their desire for a diverse workforce and that this desire did not translate as an intention to achieve that objective by discriminating in recruitment against white men in favour of other minorities.

The aspiration to remove barriers that have in the past prevented a more diverse workforce through historical discrimination is something which the tribunal expected someone who was a candidate for a Head of HR post to understand the principle and distinction between directly and pointedly refusing to recruit people from a certain group.

The lesson learned here, and which was pointedly referred to by the tribunal is for employers to consider what it is they are trying to achieve and how this is communicated. The tribunal did not believe that the employer in this situation were seeking to exclude a white male from the process, but did feel that perhaps how their desire for diversity had been worded was clumsy.

The fact that Mr Palmer’s claim failed does not mean that it is legal to discriminate against white men. This is sensationalist headline making. What is legal is discussions around the need for diversity, how to attract more candidates from diverse backgrounds and the removal of barriers to those appointments where historical bias still exists. Key methods can include initialise like blind recruiting, data driven decisions, standardised and scored interviews by a diverse pool of interviewers and considering where and how you are advertising for positions and who those adverts are likely to reach to ensure your reach a broad pool of candidates.

Are you ready to be your workplace hero?

In summary, the Palmer v AIMS Market case highlights the need for clear communication and intention in diversity efforts. Let’s prioritise strategies like blind recruiting and inclusive advertising to ensure fairness for all candidates. To make sure this happens, please contact our employment experts today.