Job adverts displaying unlawful discrimination are still far too common, the Equality & Human Rights Commission warned today.

Launching a series of short guides and checklists for advertisers and publishers to help them comply with the law, the Commission said it still receives scores of complaints about allegedly discriminatory advertisements.

Adverts which discriminate against older workers or on the basis of sex appear the most common, but people are also being denied a fair chance at work opportunities because of their disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation and other characteristics.

Examples of discrimination reported over the past year include:

  • sex or age discrimination by seeking "young" or female workers, where this was not a necessary requirement for the job, such as an advert for a "Saturday boy" to work in a garage, and a bar looking for a "part-time shot girl";
  • age discrimination by a recruitment agency stating that those over 45 need not apply, and by a club advertising salsa classes "not suitable for people over 60" in a local paper;
  • race discrimination by recruitment agencies advertising solely in foreign languages, such as vacancies for taxi drivers only advertised in Polish; or conversely restricting a general warehouse position to UK passport holders;
  • sexual orientation discrimination when casting agencies were asked to supply only homosexual applicants to work as extras in a television programme featuring a Gay Pride story – roles that should have been open to all;
  • disability discrimination by a hotel advertising that it would not offer accommodation to disabled people.

The EHRC believes that many businesses still do not realise that they are breaching the law.

Chief executive Rebecca Hilsenrath commented: “It is important that everyone has a fair shot at the job they want. Thousands of people may be losing out through misunderstanding and discrimination. We risk squandering talent and hampering economic growth if we don’t dispel widespread misunderstanding of the law. The high volume of complaints we receive each year shows employers and service providers have sometimes opened themselves to potentially costly legal action. This is usually as a result of confusion about what is and isn't permitted by equality legislation."

The EHRC's new guides covers situations where services may be targeted at particular groups. These include women-only swimming sessions; membership of private members clubs; and the letting of accommodation. It explains the circumstances where targeted recruitment advertising may be allowed because the job genuinely requires it, such as the provision of intimate social care. And it makes clear that advertisements must not in any circumstances be targeted at particular nationalities.

The guides also explain that the Equality Act applies to anyone who creates and places an advert and those who publish it in print, online or in local shops. Both advertiser and publisher are potentially liable if a discriminatory advert is published. Online publishing platforms can also be held liable if they fail to remove any discriminatory adverts once they are made aware of them.

Click here to access the "checklist" guide.