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Ask all job candidates the same questions about care responsibilities

View profile for Gillian Markland
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A recent successful compensation claim against the Japanese Consulate in Edinburgh highlights why it is important to ask all job candidates, male and female, the same questions about care responsibilities and how such responsibilities might affect performance.

Compensation amounting to £2,000 (together with her legal costs) was awarded to Mrs Macdonald who was unsuccessful in her application for a job.

The job she applied for was as a cultural/general information assistant to work in the Japanese Consulate in Edinburgh.  Although it was dealt with in a Scottish tribunal, the same law applies in England and Wales.

She was shortlisted and was one of five applicants to be interviewed.  During her interview she was asked whether she had any children.  When she answered that she had, the interviewer spent more than half the interview questioning her about her childcare arrangements.  Questions such as what she would do if one of her young sons was ill, whether any family members lived locally who could help her with the children, whether she could afford childcare costs and who would look after her children if her husband was unable to do so. 

When she was unsuccessful in her application she made a claim to an employment tribunal claiming sex discrimination.The interview score sheets were disclosed and it transpired that, whilst Mrs Macdonald had in fact scored the highest mark overall, she had scored a 3 out of 5 on ‘flexibility’.

The tribunal was satisfied that the Consulate had treated Mrs Macdonald less favourably on grounds of her sex by asking her a number of questions about her ability to cope with the job as a mother of young children.  Even though the other four applicants were women, the tribunal found that such questions would not have been asked of a hypothetical male comparator.

The lesson to be learned in this case is that during an interview all applicants should be asked the same questions when it comes to what caring provisions/flexibility they have – not only the female applicants.