Adverts which are unlawful and discriminatory could be squandering talent and hampering economic growth, according to the Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
Rebecca Hilsenrath made the comment at the launch of a series of short guides and checklists aimed at people responsible for placing and publishing adverts.
The guides aim to dispel confusion and misunderstanding about the law, and emphasise that the Equality Act applies to anyone who creates and places an advert and to those who publish it — whether 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 for failing to remove discriminatory adverts once they are made aware of them.
Among the examples of discriminatory advertisements cited by the Equality and Human Rights Commission are: sex or age discrimination, by seeking young or female workers, where that was not a necessary requirement for the job; discriminating on grounds of age, where a job advert stated that people over 45 need not apply; and race discrimination, where recruitment agencies advertised solely in foreign languages or asked for UK passport holders.
It is important that everyone has a fair shot at the job they want, Ms Hilsenrath said, adding that the high volume of complaints receive by the Commission each year shows that employers and service providers sometimes leave themselves open to potentially costly legal action.
The new guidance will, she said, help ensure that no-one is unfairly barred from job opportunities or from accessing services because of who they are.
The booklets "Advertising: A good practice checklist for advertisers and publishers" and "Advertising: Frequently asked questions about what is lawful advertising for jobs, facilities and services and accommodation" can be found here.