‘Females only’ job advert for Bristol Subway comes under fire
A Bristol franchisee of submarine sandwich store Subway may have broken employment law by posting a job advert for female-only staff.
The advert, which appeared on classified adverts website Gumtree over the weekend, appealed for “female staff to work as a Sandwich Artist in our store” in Easton, Bristol.
The advert, which has since been removed from the site, was seemingly posted on Saturday October 20.
All Subway stores are independently owned and operated by franchisees.
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On its website, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) explains stating a preference for a man or woman in a job advertisement could be unlawful sex discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.
In its advice to employers, detailed in the Equality Act Codes of Practice (page 224), it says: “Advertisements must not include any wording that suggests the employer may directly discriminate by asking for people with a certain protected characteristic, for example by advertising for a ‘salesman’ or a ‘waitress’ or saying that the applicant must be ‘youthful’.
“Example: An employer advertises for a ‘waitress’. This suggests that the employer is discriminating against men. By using a gender neutral term such as ‘waiting staff’ or by using the term ‘waiter or waitress’, the employer could avoid a claim of discrimination based on this advert.”
Karen Jackson, a discrimination lawyer at didlaw, echoed this: “The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate directly by treating a job applicant or employee less favourably than others because of sex,” she said.
“Unless there is an occupational requirement for the applicant to be of a specific sex - for example, if someone is hiring female dancers for a lap dancing club - it is against the law to hire someone because they are male or female.
“The question of gender should not feature in any decision to hire, and a job ad should certainly not specifically state that one sex is preferable to another.”
The Easton Subway franchisee, based in Stapleton Road, was unwilling to comment when contacted by This is Bristol, but confirmed the advert had been removed.
A spokesperson for Subway told This is Bristol: “All SUBWAY® stores are independently owned and operated by franchisees.
“Franchisees are responsible for their own local marketing and also for posting advertisements for new members of staff.
“We are aware there is an issue with an advertisement posted on Gumtree by a Bristol franchisee and we will be raising the issue with the franchisee. The SUBWAY® brand is committed to equal opportunities.”
Discrimination lawyer Ms Jackson explained the remedy for direct discrimination is an award for injury to feelings.
She continued: “It is important that employers observe sex discrimination laws because failure to do so is unlawful and exposes them to risk of tribunal claims which can be costly.
“They can also cause reputational damage as people shy away from organisations which are openly known to be sexist. The reputational risk is not insignificant, and in extreme cases might cause people to boycott a brand or organisation.
“In social terms sex equality is important because there is no legitimate reason why males are better than females or vice-versa in relation to any job across the spectrum.”
A number of councillors and bloggers took to social networking site Twitter to discuss the Easton job advert.
User @Bristol_Jane wrote: “Err, is it legal for Subway to advertise for only female staff? Surely anyone can make sandwiches?”
Via its Twitter account Subway asked for more information about the job advert, before later tweeting: “Thanks for letting us know about this.. We're looking into it now.”