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JUHANI ARTTO
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Authorities get tough with job offer discriminating ads

Helsinki (18.06.2010 - Juhani Artto) Authorities are now beginning to take notice of job ads which feature discriminatory elements. When there is a clear case of discrimination in job adverts, the authorities send a cautionary note to employers, alerting them to such irregularities and instructions to comply with the law on equality and discrimination.

A recent study on discrimination in working life also took a look at discrimination in job ads. The researchers based this part of their study on 95 job ads that had been advertised between 2008 and 2009 -all found to be discriminatory or otherwise interesting in this connection.

One common and persistent problem was the demand that job seekers enclose photographs with applications. "A photograph causes discriminating advance dropping of applicants", according to Milla Aaltonen, an advisor to the Finnish League for Human Rights and one of the researchers who worked on the study. She was interviewed by PAM magazine. "A photograph may only be requested in cases where appearance is essential for the job in question. For example, if a model or an actor/actress is required."

Another type of unacceptable job ad was where the demand was for certain personal data, such as details about the applicant's history of sick leave and reasons for same, civil status and number of children. Unacceptable also were requests for information on the job seeker's military service and credit register history when concerning jobs that were not in the armed forces or portfolio management in financial institutions.

In 18 ads a thorough knowledge of Finnish or a requirement that Finnish should be the mother tongue was demanded even when the question of language was not vital to the jobs advertised. In 16 cases age demands were discriminatory. Typically a "suitable" age range, for example from 18 to 30 or from 35 to 50, was mentioned.

The vast majority of these unacceptable ads (88 per cent in fact) were from the private sector. In the public sector, the situation was somewhat more problematic as several of the typical discriminating ads concerned religion. In several cases the employer was an Evangelical Lutheran parish, which required job seekers to be members of the parish or share a Christian world view even when the services sought were positions of those of cleaner or gardener.

In two publicised cases it was deemed acceptable to advertise for a female employee. The jobs in question were caretaker of a girls' dormitory and vendor of female underwear. But placing an ad for a woman that had given birth to a child to work in a childrens wear shop was regarded as unacceptable by the authorities.