How your recruitment process can go very wrong

The Japanese Consulate in Edinburgh has been levied with a large fine, after an employment tribunal ruled they discriminated against a female candidate during a job interview during their recruitment process.


Chihiro Macdonald, who was born in Japan and now lives in Edinburgh with her husband and children, was treated unfairly when recruiters at the Consulate asked her about childcare and personal issues.

During the interview for the £20,000-a-year temporary cultural/general information assistant, Macdonald was asked by Rumiko Ishigami, the Deputy Consul General, what she would do if one of her young sons was sick and she was expected to work at night.

She was also probed about whether she could afford childcare and nursery costs and asked if family lived nearby to help her with the children.

Despite Macdonald saying that her husband would look after the children, the interviewer kept on asking about their care, spending more than half the interview on the subject.


Ishigami then asked MacDonald who would look after her children if her husband was unable to do so, and told the interviewee to keep in mind that the office was a small one and every member of staff was required.

On a scoring sheet seen by the tribunal, Ishigami gave Macdonald a rating of three for “adaptability and flexibility”. For all other categories, including interest and knowledge and ability in Japanese and English, she scored four and five.

Macdonald had the highest marks out of all the candidates whose scoresheets were seen by the tribunal, though the consulate claimed the scores for the candidate who got the job could not be found.

In the aftermath of the interview Macdonald said she felt depressed and a failure.


In their judgement, the tribunal ruled in the candidate’s favour, saying that the interviewer had treated her “less favourably on grounds of her sex by asking her a number of questions about her ability to cope with the job as a mother of young children in circumstances where we conclude that the interviewers would not have asked such questions of a hypothetical male comparator”.

The consulate was ordered to pay £2,000 and costs to Macdonald.


This situation highlights the importance of a clear and non-discriminatory recruitment process. Whilst the process of getting your recruitment processes set up needs to be thorough and kept on top of, it doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. For example, we have a subscription-based Online HR Toolkit that will give you all the templates you need (with some good old-fashioned advice too of course). You may need an HR company like ours to step in for a while to help you establish the culture and recruitment approaches for your business so you recruit effectively to attract talent. Either way, we’re here to help. Please feel free to call as as a chat costs nothing.

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