The Telegraph has reported on a new recruitment site which only offers jobs to beautiful people. Beautiful People started as a dating agency to which only those deemed sufficiently good looking could become members, and has now introduced a facility which will allow employers to advertise their vacancies to members, and should any of the physically favoured wish to apply for jobs, they can do it directly through the website.

This seems to fly in the face of what is the common standard in employment practice, that recruitment should be based upon the individual’s objective merits for a job, and not upon their physical characteristics. It is a common misconception that any discrimination in employment is unlawful, however, it is only discrimination on the grounds of Protected Characteristics as defined in the Equality Act 2010 that are unlawful. Protected Characteristics are age, sex, sexual orientation, disability, race, religion or belief, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership and pregnancy and maternity. To refuse to consider someone for a position on any of these grounds would be unlawful discrimination. So selecting candidates for their beauty is not on the face of it unlawful discrimination.

However, it may not be that straightforward. People with disabilities can have physical challenges which take them outside of the conventional definition of “beautiful”. Arguably, a website that would prevent such candidates from applying would unlawfully discriminate against certain disabled people. Also, there is the recent case in the Employment Appeal Tribunal of Walker v Sita Information Networking Computing Limited in which it found although obesity was not a disability in itself, an obese claimant who had medical complications related to that was disabled within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010 and thus protected under that Act. The Government has sought to improve matters for disabled persons, by outlawing non-essential pre-employment health questions under the provisions of the Equality Act 2010 Section 60. Nor could the potential discrimination stop there. There is an obvious corollary for older people, and also in respect of those individuals whose religion or beliefs require them to adopt a particular mode of physical presentation.

An aim of the Equality Act (and its predecessors) has been to promote objective recruitment, irrespective of preconceptions based on an individual’s age, race, sex and the like. This is a worthy aim that most employers support and will continue to support.

If you would like any further information about this issue, please contact me by emailing alexandra.carn@edwincoe.com.

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