I am fairly heavily involved with recruitment where I work, being the author of the technical test and phone screen questions we use for evaluating candidates, and conducting face-to-face interviews with many of the hopefuls that get over these early hurdles.
Naturally, in order to gain these responsibilities I have gone through a number of required HR ass-covering exercises in which it was drilled into me that I am legally forbidden from asking questions about sexuality, marital status, family-planning, and anything else which might lead me into rejecting a candidate on grounds our beloved government considers discriminatory.
Never mind that I have never shown the least inclination to discriminate against someone because they might want to possibly think about maybe taking some [mp]aternity leave in the next 30 years, or (gasp) prefer the company of their own gender, or whatever; I have to go through all this training so that the company can throw me to the wolves if a candidate claims to have been discriminated against. "Not our fault, guvnor; we explained the rules".
Still, fair enough I suppose; we live in litigious times, and not being a bigot I have no particular fears of transgressing.
But what if the rules are changed? And what if they're changed in horribly unexpected ways? A recent article on the BBC News site contained, quite without fanfare, some shocking intelligence.
Previously standard questions about age, length of experience and religious views are now illegal, Which? points out.
Wait, what? Length of experience is now a forbidden topic? So if I'm recruiting a senior developer or team lead, I now have to waste valuable time interviewing fresh-out-of-college tyros who haven't written a single line of commercial code or spent a single day working in a professional team?
I can kind of see what is trying to be achieved here, but it is an unavoidable fact that experience is a vital attribute for many senior roles, and needs to be taken into consideration when trying to fill those roles. It's not just me either - a quick trawl through the endless agency emails I seem to get every day (despite telling them I'm not on the market) reveals that most tech jobs are still specifying n years of experience; this seems somewhat pointless now that candidates can't be asked about it. I wonder if they know?
Even more interesting is the fact that many contract positions are still paid at 'rates negotiable on experience'. Hah, how does that work when experience is a forbidden subject? If I were graduating from university this year I'd be whoring myself around the City applying for £500-per-day contracting gigs and suing any bank that dared ask me to justify my rate.
Rob Grant's novel Incompetence just became slightly less hysterical.
Article 13199 of the Pan-European Constitution: "No person shall be prejudiced from employment in any capacity, at any level, by reason of age, race, creed or incompitence (sic).