My business partner placed an advert for a Personal Assistant last week. We work with companies advising them on their community engagement and working with local groups. In order to practice what we preach, we wanted to give every chance for someone local to get the job and so included the Croydon job centre (our office is on Croydon High Street). We didn’t expect a response to one of our requirements (Language restrictions: Excellent command of English language both written and verbal), which included the following:

You should consider including the answers to the relevant questions below in your Assurance Statement, making clear the reasons why you want to claim an exception to the Equality Act:

o Why do you need a person to speak a particular language?

o In what way could the duties of the current staff be reorganised to enable the new post to be filled by someone who does not need to speak this particular language If this is not possible please state why.

o How many staff work at this establishment

o How many staff speak only this language?

o Include any other relevant information that may help us understand why you want to claim this exception

We had a number of questions like this to complete with a helpful reminder that it is an offence to provide a false statement.

My colleague’s response asking for the advert to be withdrawn:

Thank you for your email which I have read with some surprise and astonishment.

As you will understand, the role of a Personal Assistant is to make my life easier. Your email to me has requested certain information for the sake of having irrelevant information. I am astounded at your questioning and request of justification of why a communications agency, based in the UK, would demand an excellent command of the English language from its staff. I also do not understand why you would ask for a hierarchy, a basic search of my company’s website will show you that I run a small business with a relatively flat structure.

I decided to specifically advertise on the DWP website rather than through a specific recruitment agency so that the widest segment of the public would be able to access what I consider to be a great entry level job which will kick-start a career for someone who wants to do well in life. Your email has meant that with a heavy heart, I would like to withdraw my job advertisement from your department’s website forthwith as I will find alternative means to recruit. I would hold you and your team responsible for actively hindering the job prospects of a member of my local community. My business planning would have meant that the successful candidate would have been employed by my company for the foreseeable future with long term job prospects.

I set up this business at 25 years of age and have seen it through a recession. This is the first time I have advertised publicly to recruit a future member of my team. My experience of your bureaucracy and red-tape means unless I receive a response which puts my mind at rest, that I will never attempt to recruit through your website again or recommend that any other business does so.

I look forward to receiving from you, a direct response.

Yours in disappointment,

Needless to say we haven’t heard ¬†back. This government has done a fantastic job in the most difficult economic conditions to tackle the problem of youth unemployment. Last year’s fall of 133,700 young people claiming JSA was the biggest since 1997. I also understand the need to ensure that everyone gets opportunities to get along. However a cut and paste email that fails to appreciate that the Personal Assistant to the Managing Partner of a communications company trading in the UK clearly¬†needs an excellent command of English will only hamper efforts to get more people into work. We need a Personal Assistant because work is incredibly hectic and my Partner in particular needs his life made easier. His solution for making it easier was to eliminate the bureaucracy of the job centre himself and look at the job applications that are coming in thick and fast from the other websites that we’ve used. Sorry if that offends, but that’s real life for everyday business people. We’re still keen to take on a local person but the job centre doesn’t seem to be the place to do it for us.