Employers should hire based on skills not experience, MPs say

Report urges businesses to improve access to good work for those with disadvantaged backgrounds or special educational needs

Employers should conduct strictly skills-based interviews and reconsider the emphasis still frequently placed on work experience, a group of MPs has said.

A report from the Women and Work All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) said such measures would improve access to work for those with disadvantaged backgrounds or special educational needs or disabilities, who often find it hard to access good-quality work experience.

It stated that where a candidate’s work experience was lacking, employers should assess their skills and place greater value on more accessible experiences such as voluntary work or extra-curricular activities.

The report also recommended employers commit to providing more paid, structured work experience and internships for young people not in education, employment or training and students with disabilities and special educational needs. It highlighted Department for Education figures showing that although 65 per cent of employers described previous work experience as a critical factor when hiring, just 30 per cent offered work experience to those exiting education.

Jess Phillips, MP and co-chair of the Women and Work APPG, said: “Too often, we see marginalised women overlooked by mainstream discourse on how to support women in the workplace. The key to building a more inclusive workplace is to recognise these intersections.” 

Claire McCartney, resourcing and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said employers needed to critically review and challenge their existing recruitment practices to ensure they are inclusive. It was important for businesses to “look for ways to assess candidates’ skills where work experience is lacking and make sure any tests used are relevant for the job and fit for purpose”, she said.

Get more HR and employment law news like this delivered straight to your inbox every day – sign up to People Management’s PM Daily newsletter

Other measures the report advocated included employers advertising all jobs on a flexible, part-time or job-share basis. It emphasised this should apply even to the most senior roles to make career progression more accessible to women with families. 

It said “specific, measurable and time-bound action plans” should be introduced to reduce the gender pay gaps of all employers reporting them, and encouraged the government to expand pay gap reporting to include ethnicity and disability as well as gender. 

Employers should also aim to recognise the different experiences of women in the workplace based on their other characteristics, such as race, class, disability and sexual orientation, the report noted. It said employers could make small adaptations to build more inclusive cultures, such as including gender pronouns in email signatures.

Joeli Brearley, founder of campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed, supported the report’s guidelines on flexible working. “Advertising all jobs as flexible by default is key to creating this greater access,” she said.

“Employers and government alike would do well to abandon the usual tokenism and actually do something of tangible value to women, like adopting this recommendation.”

The report coincided with the government’s Hampton-Alexander review hitting a major gender diversity target ahead of schedule, with a third of board seats in the UK’s 100 top listed companies now occupied by women.