British Airways discriminatory recruitment practices

BBC Breakfast are today reporting about British Airways’ recruitment practices and the “references” they ask for from potential new recruits. I can’t find a link to the story anywhere though.

The BBC say that BA ask prospective employees a range of questions including

  • whether the person has children?
  • Whether their child is disabled
  • How many days off they’ve had for their children

While I’d never usually advise one of my clients to ask such questions, I can see situations where they could be justified. It all depends on how the information is being used by BA.

For instance, it would be discrimination to decide not to employ someone because they have a disabled child. It would not, in my opinion, be wrong not to employ someone whose “overall picture” painted by attendance statistics demonstrated that the person was “more likely than others” to take time off work (although I could easily work an argument for discrimination on those facts too!)

I think the crucial point here is the nature of BA’s business; they can’t have air host people call in sick an hour before their shift, as it would mean delayed flights, unhappy customers and fines from the airport for delays (I believe). It can’t happen.

Now obviously simply not employing people (mostly women) with kids is stupid, but I doubt that’s what BA is up to – I don’t know for sure. But having a full picture of a prospective employee isn’t wrong, in my opinion.

Dangerous. But not wrong.

What do you think?