There were many comments made on social media last week regarding a job advert that was published seeking a candidate who required, amongst other attributes, the “ability to deal with the male banter”.
If this were not sufficient to cause alarm, the same advert also made clear that the candidate should be “emotionally intelligent” and “sociable but not distracting”.
Needless to say, it was reported that the advertisement was withdrawn shortly after the social media storm began. One can only hope that the “male banter” described in the advertisement did not extend to discriminatory comments and perceptions in this instance, but it hardly portrays a working environment that is reflective of 21st century values.
The word “banter” has sadly become synonymous with an attempt at excusing improper comments or behaviour, whether it is the locker room banter attributed to the US President or the banter that sometimes takes place in a male dominated workplace.Nobody wants a dull workplace where everybody is frightened to make a light-hearted comment or a joke. It is perfectly possible to have a laugh in the workplace without risking offending anybody. As soon as the word banter appears and particularly when it is described as gender specific, such as in this particular advert, the boundary is likely to be crossed where the behaviour becomes capable of amounting to harassment.
The fear is then that the holder of the post advertised is expected to put up with comments that become offensive, with any failure to see them as a joke being attributed to a lack of emotional intelligence on the part of the complainant.
Perhaps a further flaw in the advertisement is that it appears to inherently assume that the right candidate will be female. This could actually lead to allegations of discrimination against potential applicants who are male.
It is therefore quite telling of how unwise the wording of this advertisement was that the very same paragraph that was potentially discriminatory towards women was one that would have given male applicants a possible claim for discrimination too.
Employers need to be careful of what they state in job adverts, not only because it can give them a bad image but because a candidate for a job can claim discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, even without commencing work for an employer. Harassment claims can include awards for injury to feelings that can sometimes stretch into the tens of thousands of pounds, no matter what the person’s salary level is.
Finally, it is also strongly inadvisable to specify the requirement of “very ad hoc private suppot (sic)” alongside a requirement that the right candidate will be “degree educated with good spelling and grammar”.