Diversity Referral Program ( UK and Europe)

Hello Everyone

Can My Company Pay Higher Bonuses To Employees Who Refer Diverse Candidates? 

In the other geographies where my company is based we have a program which pays higher bonuses to current employees who refer diverse candidates and it has been a very successful program. We would like to  increase diversity in our pipeline, starting with gender diversity in UK & Europe. 

I hear mixed reviews about this and wanted to check if this is actually discriminatory here in the UK or parts of Europe. If so, can someone share their views on why is it so.?

In my understanding, the distinction lies in recruiting practices versus hiring practices. To be clear, I understand it is improper and illegal to hire someone based on their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, national origin or other protected category. But ensuring that a company has diverse candidates in its recruiting pipeline is a fair game. Thoughts are welcome 

  • I have never come across this approach before.

    As you say the distinction will come from if this is positive discrimination (unlawful) or positive action (potentially lawful). You must be able to show that any positive action is an appropriate way for your organisation to achieve one of the permitted aims and the steps you are taking have been carefully thought through.

    In principle I can see a justification for it but in reality, I would be very careful how you communicate and sell this to your colleagues. It's entirely possible some may well not see the fine distinction between positive action and discrimination and may struggle with your approach unless well communicated.
  • In reply to Keith:

    Thanks Keith, I do understand communication would be the key here. Companies like Intel, Google, Accenture sort to this approach globally too.
  • In reply to Rahul:

    Hi Rahul

    Communication and, as Keith says, justification.

    You will need to analyse the diversity of your applicants. If statistical analysis reveals that women are under-represented in the people applying to your vacancies, then you would be able to cite this as justification. However, statistical analysis might also reveal that women are applying but not getting through to the interview stage, or that the people invited to interview are a diverse mix but the offers made do not reflect this.

    Once you understand the nature of the problem, you will be in a position to take action to address it. Without this analysis, a white male could claim that he had been discriminated against (I am assuming that when you say your business wants to attract more diverse applicants, you mean applicants who are not white men). You should make reference to your findings in your communications about your incentive scheme, e.g. "women are under-represented in our business so we particularly welcome female applicants and will thank any member of staff successfully referring a female candidate by ... ... .."

    The risk of male applicants claiming that you are discriminating is not theoretical. There was a white male applicant to a police force in the UK who put in a strong application but was passed over in the name of diversity. He sued and won. I cannot remember the names of the parties but someone else might.

  • In reply to Elizabeth Divver:

    Dear Elizabeth, Thanks for providing such detailed insights. The current focus of our company is to improve the gender diversity as women are quite under-presented in technology teams in UK and worldwide. The diversity metrics we publish monthly does clearly indicate that. So is that analysis enough for us to ask for referrals of female candidates from our employees. The challenge I have with the stat analysis is in UK and Europe we currently dont ask for gender at the time of application.

    Any advice is welcome.
  • In reply to Rahul:

    Hi Rahul
    A key point made by Elizabeth is being able to identify at which points female staff are under-represented so that you can intervene at the right step in the recruitment process to take legitimate action. For example, if females are NOT under-represented at the application or interview stages, that could suggest that your problem lies at the final selection stage. In these circumstances the isdue may be of gender bias by recruiters/selectors and training may be the appropriate solution. An attempt to positively encourage even more female applicants could well be discriminatory in this situation. I understand from your post that imbalance is evident from actual staffing levels but what about the earlier stages in the recruitment process? Are you clear at what levels the imbalance kicks in so that you can act accordingly?
  • In reply to Ray:

    Dear Ray, This is an analysis that I will take on but for that first we will need to gather the gender related information, see if there is a challenge here and then move on the next steps. The challenge in tech industry especially like ours ( telecom), imbalance is quite a lot.