Applicants' rights and obligations towards recruiters
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Recently, I read in the newspaper that a recruiter was prosecuted by the Ghent Labour Court and had to pay 25.000 € in damages to a 59-year old man after rejecting his application because of his age. This decision was immediately applauded by the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities, “Unia”. In condemning the recruiter, the Labour Court ensures that applicants’ rights, mentioned in the Collective Labour Agreement n°38, are defended. Fortunately, candidates who apply for a job do benefit from some rights. What are they? And what about their obligations?
Let’s start with applicants’ obligations towards recruiters. By being involved in a recruitment process, candidates should do their utmost to cooperate with the agency that helps them to find a job. For example, in order to create a candidate’s file, he or she will be asked to communicate some private information such as private address or National Registration number. For an efficient process, recruiters need valid and correct information. This means, for instance, that a candidate may not lie about his or her previous work experiences or academic qualifications/diplomas. If the person is lying and the truth is found out, this can be a legitimate reason for dismissal. Aside from their obligations, applicants also benefit from certain rights. Let’s focus on these!
First, all applications should be treated fairly. Aspects such as gender, age, religion, skin colour, ethnic origins, sexual orientation and health cannot be taken into account by recruiters as long as the candidate meets the requirements of the job. This would be discrimination and, in the case it is proven, the recruiter could be asked by the Interfederal Centre for Equal Opportunities to pay damages, as described earlier.
The agency should provide applicants with sufficient information about the job, and the company, for which they are applying. This includes the job description, the salary, the sector of the company, the location and opportunities for career progression. From this information, applicants can judge if the position is attractive. Moreover, the applicants should be kept updated by the recruitment agency about the company’s feedback once the recruitment process is in progress. In the event that an applicant is not selected for a job, ethical behaviour requires that the agency give the candidate as much constructive feedback as possible.
The third right is the right to privacy. This aims at protecting applicants’ private lives by ensuring that any information is used solely for the recruitment process and is not communicated to others. This personal information should not influence recruiters’ judgement. Be advised that recruiters always look for as much information as possible about applicants. This is possible today via social media, for example, where we regularly post private pictures and personal information. Set your privacy settings accordingly!
Continuing on the subject of privacy, there are some questions that recruiters may not ask during an interview and, if they are, an applicant is not obliged to answer them. “Are you often sick?” or “Do you plan on having children in the short term?” are inappropriate and unrelated to the requirements of the job.
To summarise, Belgian law ensures that applicants are well protected against unfair treatment. Even if inappropriate action by a recruiter can often be difficult to prove, complaints may be lodged at the Employment Department of Flanders, Wallonia and Brussels, depending on your place of residence.