The BBC has been accused of discrimination after an internal
email was leaked revealing that the Corporation is looking to
recruit an "ethnically diverse" male reporter over the
age of 30 for the One Show. The successful applicant should
"ideally have a regional accent" and would preferably be
someone who lives in Liverpool or Manchester, according to the
This follows recent headlines just two days ago where the BBC
was accused of rejecting white applicants for two junior
scriptwriting roles on a trainee scheme, as these positions were
only open to people from "ethnic minority
Under the Equality Act, an employer must not discriminate
against a job applicant on the basis of certain protected
characteristics. This includes, amongst others, an applicant's
race, age or sex. However, it may be lawful for an employer to
require a job to be done by someone with a particular
characteristic, if having that characteristic is an occupational
requirement for the role. To rely on this exception an employer
will need to show, having regard to the nature and context of the
work, that having a protected characteristic is an occupational
requirement and that the application of the requirement is a
proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
It is difficult to see how the BBC will be able to justify that
recruiting someone with these specific characteristics is a genuine
occupational requirement in these circumstances. There is no
obvious reason why a female under the age of 30 from the South
could not do the same role.
However, there is another alternative which is rarely used. An
employer can take "positive action" in a small number of
limited circumstances, either in a recruitment or promotion
situation, or more generally. This includes positive action where
an employer reasonably thinks that participation in an activity by
persons who share a protected characteristic is disproportionately
Before any positive action can be taken, an employer will need
to show that the person treated more favourably is as qualified as
the other candidate and, again, that the action taken is a
proportionate means of achieving one of a number of specified
We understand that the BBC launched a diversity strategy earlier
this year which aims to increase the number of women, black, LGBT
and disabled employees at the Corporation by 2020. Reports suggest
that the number of BBC workers from an ethnic minority is currently
13.4 per cent. This is already proportionately reflective of the
13.1 per cent of people living in Britain from ethnic minority
backgrounds. However, the BBC may be able to show that there is not
the same diversity amongst its presenters. This issue has certainly
been in the press in recent years and this recruitment campaign may
be attempting to address that directly.
We recommend that employers who wish to use positive action,
either in recruitment campaigns or more generally, seek legal
advice first. Any attempts that do not fall within the strict
criteria allowed in the Equality Act will be ripe for challenge on
grounds of discrimination.
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