Posts Tagged ‘employment’

Can restaurants discriminate when hiring staff?

Thursday, July 28th, 2016 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts


Whenever I dine at one of the many fine Thai restaurants in Leeds I am always struck by the fact that the staff are all Thai people. Why is this? How does a restaurant get away with this? Surely it is discrimination to exclude all other races?

My assumption was that they got round the legislation by insisting on language skills. If you run a Thai restaurant, all you need to do is specify applicants must speak Thai, and without saying anything about race you have filtered almost everyone else out. I’ll come back to this point later.

Economist Steven Levitt suggests that it probably isn’t that much of a problem. There are lots of different restaurants from lots of different cultures, and so the fact that you are less likely to get a job at one restaurant is fine because you are more likely to get a job at another. If anyone loses out it is the majority population (British people in the UK) which you could argue is also less of a problem because many restaurants are not themed and minorities generally need more protection than majorities.

He also suggests that restaurants may not be directly discriminating at all. In the fictional Swedish-themed restaurant he and Stephen Dubner discuss, he says you could advertise for staff in Swedish magazines, and write the job advert in Swedish. In the restaurant Dubner visits to do some interviews, they say they also hire extensively from friends and family of existing staff. Thus the restaurants are not refusing to hire white people, they just don’t apply.

Levitt also notes that customers prefer authentic staff. Which is probably true right. It’s nice to go to a Chinese restaurant and have Chinese people working there. The experience loses something when someone clearly British is serving you. This is silly when you think about it though. This is just your waiter; they’re not the chef. They’re almost like dressing for the restaurant. And even if the chef was Chinese too, that doesn’t mean they are automatically a better Chinese food cook.

Dubner also gives the example of airline hostesses. Back in the day, airlines would specifically hire attractive, unmarried stewardesses, and after they married they were expected to give it up. This proved popular with their business clientele (middle-aged businessmen) but the court ruled against it saying part of fighting discrimination was challenging these ideas of preference. Just because we’re all a little bit wired to prefer authentic staff, doesn’t mean we should promote that as an acceptable social value.

Not to mention these groups are often lumped together: Mexican restaurants are often staffed with Spanish and Portuguese waiters, Indian restaurants are often staffed by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis and Thai restaurants are often staffed by Vietnamese people.

Language could be a genuine reason. In a Latin restaurant that Dubner interviews, they say the orders are called out in Spanish in the kitchen, so you can make a case for requiring that. However, when speaking to an equality lawyer, they talked about a restaurant chain that was successfully sued because the plaintiff argued language requirements were just being used as a proxy for discrimination.

In summary, the answer is no. Restaurants cannot, and should not, discriminate to get authentic staff. However a combination of indirect discrimination and language requirements may allow restaurants to primarily hire such staff without any direct discrimination.

Gaming the system

Friday, September 28th, 2012 | Success & Productivity

As I discussed recently, we’re all basically rats trapped in a system where we have to sell our time, and our bodies, for the resources we need to keep us alive. So it makes sense we try and play the system as best as we can.

I won’t claim to be a researcher in the psychology of employment, but here are some suggestions from my anecdotal experience (you know, anecdote, the singular of data 😉 ).

Move to a different company

As I wrote about recently, in the years where I moved jobs, I managed to obtain pay increases of at least double what I managed to obtain when I didn’t. While this is more pronounced in the IT industry, it seems to apply across the whole job market.

Work in IT

Even through the global recession, I never struggled to get a job, or achieve large pay rises year in, year out. The financial crisis simply never touched the IT industry, and as a recruiting manager at the time, I can tell you that neither love nor money could bring in enough software developers. It certainly isn’t going away anytime soon, so why not switch careers?

Work in IT, especially if you’re a woman

The sad reality of society today is that it still does not provide equal opportunities. This is especially true in IT where being a woman is an absolutely enormous advantage. Employers will discriminate against men – I’ve sat in meetings where better candidates have been passed up in favour of female candidates. Why not use this to your advantage?

Be very arrogant

I once went for a £70,000 a year job with a well known mobile phone operator based in the UK. A lot of people suggest you shouldn’t be arrogant, so I toned my arrogance down for the interview. I didn’t get the job.

Two months later, I went for an even higher paid job and this time I toned my arrogance up (as unbelievable as that might be). I got it.

The lesson is that employers want to have confidence that you can do the job and they will select a candidate who shows that, over a candidate who doesn’t, even if they get caught bullshitting once or twice. Don’t lie, it’s OK to say “I don’t know”, but don’t be afraid to really push how great you are and how much you know – even if they catch you out, you’ve still put across the right attitude, and once in the job, you’ll be able to show them you’re worth the money anyway.

Tackle an interviewer’s concerns head on

When it comes to your turn to ask questions in the interview, just ask the interviewer “do you have any reservations about employing me?” I end every interview with that question now. If they do, you can try and answer their concerns there and then. If not, you’ve put it into their mind that they literally have no reason not to offer you the job.

Hold out for more money

I’ve never been offered a job, only for it to fall through on pay negotiations. Once and employer has decided they want you, they won’t quibble over an extra thousand or two a year to get your signature on the dotted line. Try to have a couple of things lined up at the same time so you can legitimately say “I’m considering some other offers.” That will scare them into thinking they will lose you, and they’ll cough up the extra cash.

Tell your employer you’re going to leave

A good friend of mine who worked for a certain other mobile phone operator based in the UK, decided that he was fed up with his job and announced to the world that he was looking for a new challenge. His employer soon found out and decided that he was worth keeping, so offered to train him up in a whole different part of the company, and bump him up a few pay grades too! If your company likes you, they’ll do what they can to make you stay – if not, then they were probably going to get rid of you at some point anyway, so you have nothing to lose.

State of the job market

Wednesday, August 1st, 2012 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

The recent global recession has been a real boom time for me. I’ve switched jobs several times and now gone self employed. When I was lead developer over at Buzz we couldn’t hire people fast enough, and even when we could, the often ended up going elsewhere as other companies desperately tried to attract them with ever spiraling pay increases. Kick backs for referrals started reaching four figures.

Never the less, I heard a lot in the media, and from other people, about how hard it was to get a job and about the record levels of unemployment. The news is full of headlines about how bad things are.

I put it down to the industry I was in. We must be an island, resilient to the global economic downturn, ever-expanding while the rest of the world was reseeding. Sure it was easy to get a job if you worked in software development, but everyone else must be struggling.

Then, in April, Elina moved over to the UK. She had just graduated and had no real work experience. But together we wrote her a CV, put together a “job hunting action plan” and did some interview practice. Within two weeks she had a series of interviews lined up and was offered two of the first three she went to.

In fact, they wanted to start her so quickly that she had already done two days work for one company before receiving a better offer and leaving to go another one.

This once again made me question as to whether there really were no jobs available out there. We certainly didn’t find a lack of them when looking for Elina – just trawling through Gumtree threw up dozens of local vacancies each day.

Having spent three years working at McDonald’s, I have quite a few friends still working in McManagement. Conversations with them tell a similar story to the IT industry – they’ve been pretty much continually recruiting throughout the entire recession.

Last weekend, I also spoke to my auntie who works for a charity shop. While she took the job part-time to give her something to do in her retirement, she is currently working full time because they can’t fill the two paid vacancies they have at the moment.

So if the industry I work in has plenty of jobs, the industry my friends work in has plenty of jobs, the industry my relatives work in has plenty of jobs and Elina can get a job without any real work experience in only a matter of weeks, how then can you make the case that there are no jobs available?

The answer is, I’m not sure you can. The last resort of an answer I could pull up was perhaps due to age barriers as most of my friends are young – but as I’ve already said, my auntie has retired once!

That then opens the question up as to why there is so much unemployment.

Two answers spring to mind.

First off, people just won’t take the jobs available. It’s almost certainly no coincidence that the biggest constant in recruitment are companies like McDonald’s – nobody wants to work there. Many people consider themselves too good to work there. You can argue that it is demeaning for people with a degree to go work in fast food, but I think that is a real insult to people like myself and Norman who did go work there – and we’ll both tell you that we learnt loads!

Not to mention the fact that a bachelor’s degree is far from anything special anymore. But more to the point, it’s totally reasonable for employers to want to hire well rounded people, who have some knowledge of the real world outside of academic the academic environment.

Secondly, I think there is a failure of our education system to prepare people to job hunt. When I finished school, I will put my hand up and admit that I didn’t know how to job hunt. We had gone over writing a CV at school but that is about where it ends.

Job hunting is a lot of work! Loads! I actually much prefer being in a job (although being self-employed is even better) than looking for one because it’s LESS work. When you’re job hunting you need to be putting in a full 40 hour week, you need to be up first thing in a morning, looking presentable to go round speaking to people. When I’m working I can role out of bed any time up until 10am (I like to be in the office by 7:30, but the point is I could go in at 10), and turn up in “whatever you wake up in” – that’s a quote from one of my manager’s.

But I didn’t realise how much effort was required. Nobody at school ever said to me, “it should be a 40 hour week and you need to make sure you have an action plan and a spreadsheet of who you have contacted and when you’re chasing them up.” School should be teaching that because otherwise, it is no wonder that people are unable to find themselves one of the many jobs that are out there.