IFAs often believe it is only after they have taken someone on that the complications start over workers' rights and employment law legislation. This is wrong. Even at interviews, bosses are wide open to potential discrimination claims in the current claims-obsessed environment.
For IFAs, the process is complicated as there are rules and regulations governing the recruitment of new staff, especially for sales teams.
The FSA has set stringent guidelines on the recruitment of sales staff. These mainly relate to whether they are “fit for purpose”. It is a clinical phrase that basically means ensuring that all staff are cap-able of the role they are applying for and have a high level of competence.
There are three checks that IFAs have to carry out, relating to the candidate's criminal, credit and disciplinary history. They also have to prove their competence and capability to do the job and their financial soundness.
The FSA produces handbooks, such as the training and competence sourcebook, which IFAs need when assessing candidates against these criteria.
IFAs must not scrimp on background research on candidates. They have to know about the candidate's history and conduct anywhere they have worked, not just in the UK.
IFAs also have to be aware of the threat of not conducting interviews in a structured manner and of the implications of their actions during the interview itself.
Employment law firm Peninsula regularly comes across cases where a candidate has been unsuccessful at interview and has gone away with the impression they have been penalised on the basis of their sex, religion, race or sexual orientation and disability. Many are the result of misunderstandings rather than discrimination but some are down to the candidate using remarks or incidents during their interview as the basis for a claim.
We have seen litigation cases connected to job interviews increase by 23 per cent in the last two years. There is a claims' culture where people feel strongly about their rights concerning discrimination and are increasingly likely to pursue claims if they think these rights have been violated.
Employers need to be on their guard, even at interview stage. The difficult thing is that the interviewee can often put them in a no-win situation – for example, they may know they are unsuitable for a job but apply for it anyway.
Employers have to be careful when selecting applicants for interview, ensuring that every element of their CV is scrutinised before they are called in so that any potential problems can be spotted.
There are also situations that employers can avoid by being more careful about what they say. For example, they should not ask about people's religion or probe too deeply into their personal lives. It is not acceptable to ask a recently married woman if she is planning to start a family soon – if she does not get the job she will naturally assume that this is the reason why and have a strong case for a claim.
If IFAs are uncertain of exactly what the protocol is concerning interview questions, they should get in touch with a company that can offer them advice.
Things not to say at an interview
1: How old are you?
2: Are you planning to start a family soon/are you pregnant?
3: What religion are you?
4: Being a woman, do you think you would be able to cope with the physical side of the job?
5: You'd have to start wearing make-up if you want to work here
6: Do you find your children take you away from work often?
7: Does your illness mean you have to have lots of time off?
8: Do you have a boyfriend/girlfriend?
9: Have you always been that weight?
10: What's your social life like?