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Is it legal to stipulate years of experience in a job ad?

When looking to bring on a new employee, it’s important that in-house and external processes are ethical and legal. To do this, it is critical to refer to the correct documents and to seek legal help when required or unsure.

A recent discussion in the office resulted in the question being asked, ‘does stipulating that a candidate have at least x amount of years’ experience, constitute discrimination?’

The argument is, that if you stipulate that a candidate should have 5 years’ experience and a university degree to apply, they realistically will not be younger than 26. This is assuming that the candidate completed high school at 18 and went to university for three years. When they were roughly 21 they entered the workforce. To have five years’ experience you would be hard-pressed to find someone younger than 26.

According to the Human Rights Commission, you cannot discriminate based on myriad factors including age, race, sex and disability. One must ask if requiring a certain amount of years is equivalent to saying that applicants must be over a certain age to be considered. Or is the argument that you could have work experience if you left school at 16 enough to make this an acceptable statement to include in a job listing?

The HRC makes it clear that job ads are to focus on skills and duties, to give potential candidates the best idea of their suitability. It’s also important to distinguish between ‘essential’ and ‘desirable’ skills.
The best way to prevent discrimination in recruitment is to record the decisions you make, and your reasons for doing so. This gives you a point of reference should a candidate make a complaint against you.