Recruiters warned of risk from ‘ridiculous’ workplace rules

Recruiters supplying workers to clients in workplaces with “ridiculous” rules in force run the risk of being brought to tribunal.

According to findings from a survey of 1,000 UK workers, released today by job board CV Library, one-third (36.8%) of workplaces in the UK have “ridiculous” rules in place, with one in five (22.5%) workers stating that they feel they can’t be trusted as a result.

Examples of these rules include not allowing female workers to wear trousers, not allowing workers to talk out loud apart from when they are in the staff room, and allowing only three minutes for toilet breaks.

But employment lawyers have told Recruiter that any employer operating such strict rules could risk themselves and any agency supplying these workers being brought before an employment tribunal.

Dr Sybille Steiner, partner solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said that strict rules on taking toilet breaks could potentially be seen as discriminatory and unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 in respect of older, disabled or pregnant workers, for example. 

“Another issue could arise in respect of unnecessary restrictions on dress codes – requirements that disallow women from wearing trousers could be seen as discriminatory on the grounds of sex,” Steiner told Recruiter

“For agency and contract workers, both the agency and the end user have obligations not to discriminate against the worker. Therefore, workers who suffer discrimination due to unlawful rules may be able to take action in the employment tribunal against both the agency and the end user. On this basis, agencies need to ensure that they are aware of the legal requirements and that, before entering into contracts or placing agency workers, they require end users to re-address any rules that may cause discriminatory issues in the workplace.”

Jacqueline McDermott, solicitor at Keystone Law, agreed, adding that some of the working practices uncovered by the research might be discriminatory.

“Recruiters need to be aware that they could liable for discrimination if they put employees forward, or promote these jobs with these requirements on behalf of the employers,” she said.

“Not being able to go to the toilet might seriously affect disabled people, older workers or certain people with certain protected characteristics.

“What recruiters want to be mindful of is that they don’t impose discriminatory requirements on candidates, because they could be liable for discrimination just as much as if they post an advert saying only under-30s need apply,” she said.

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