Legislation overview

There is no single Act governing recruitment and selection, but there are many Acts dealing with the employment relationship that have an impact on pre-employment issues as well. The most significant example is the Equality Act 2010.

The main legislation dealing with recruitment and selection are set out under the following headings.


The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against job applicants (and existing workers) because of a ‘protected characteristic,’ namely:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity

EU discrimination legislation

European Directives dealing with inequality and less favourable treatment which may have an impact on recruitment and selection in the UK include:

  • Equal Treatment Framework Directive (2000/78/EC)
  • Equal Treatment Amendment Directive (2002/73/EC)
  • Race Directive (2000/43/EC)
  • Directive implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services (2004/113/EC)
  • Directive on equality between men and women in matters of employment and occupation (2006/54).

Other discrimination legislation

  • Fixed-term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2002 (SI 2002/2034)
  • Part-time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 (SI 2000/1551)
  • Agency Workers Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/93)


Legislation covering convicted offenders and the vetting and barring scheme for people working with children and vulnerable adults:

  • Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974
  • Rehabilitation of Offenders 1974 (Exceptions Order) 1975
  • Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006

See How should employers deal with job applicants who have criminal convictions or spent convictions?

Eligibility to work in the UK

The main Act dealing with eligibility to work in the UK is the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act 2006. The following EU and national legislation may also be relevant:

  • Immigration (European Economic Area) Regulations 2006
  • Freedom of Movement Directive (2004/38/EC)
  • Commonwealth Immigrants Acts 1962 and 1968
  • Immigration Act 1971
  • Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • UK Borders Act 2007
  • Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009

See Should an employer ask a job applicant if they are a foreign national and if they can work in the UK?

Data Protection

The Data Protection Act 1998 puts restrictions on what data employers can collect and use in the recruitment and employment process, and defines certain types of information as ‘sensitive data.’

Northern Ireland

Not all of the legislation referred to applies to Northern Ireland (for example the Equality Act 2010). For a brief overview of the differences in employment law between Northern Ireland and Great Britain see our  

More information is on recruitment and selection in Northern Ireland is available from the Labour Relations Agency.

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Q: How should employers prepare for conducting a job interview?

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Q: What should an employer do with CVs, interview notes and other documents obtained during the recruitment process and do job applicants have the right to see these documents?

Q: Should employers always appoint the highest qualified applicant for a job?

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Q: What documentation can employers ask for relating to a job applicant’s immigration status?

Q: What are the penalties if an employer recruits illegal workers?

Q: How should employers deal with job applicants who have criminal convictions or spent convictions?

Q: What issues should employers be aware of when taking up references?

Q: What are the legal implications of providing feedback to unsuccessful job applicants?

Q: Is an employer bound by job offers made, or terms or conditions discussed, during a job interview?

Q: Is an employer bound by job offers which are conditional on satisfactory references or other conditions?

Q: Can an employer withdraw a job offer?

Q: What compensation may be claimed by a job applicant who fails to be appointed?

Q: What is positive action and how does it affect recruitment and selection?

Q: What should employers do to avoid disability discrimination during recruitment?

Q: Should an employer use Facebook or other social media to vet potential new employees?

Q: What is the legal status of an employee during a probationary period?

Q: Are there any future legal developments expected in the area of recruitment and selection?

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