Companies or recruiters who advertise for a waitress or a handyman and newsagents who put a sign up in their window for a paper boy face prosecution, according to new guidance issued by the equality watchdog.
Anyone advertising for someone of a specific sex, age or nationality — including a Polish builder — could be breaking the law, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), as could be nightclubs advertising free drinks for women.
The EHRC advice on how to place advertisements to comply with the Equality Act says that advertisers should “avoid job titles that imply a job may be done by men or women only”.
They should not seek to employ a “handyman” or a “barmaid” but should advertise instead for a “maintenance worker” or a “bartender”.
The watchdog warns businesses that using such phrases as “young and dynamic”, “recent graduate” or “mature person” in a job advertisement could risk breaching the age discrimination laws.
Asking for any physical characteristics, including height and strength, could also be illegal because it could discriminate against women and disabled people.
Even posters promoting mother-and-baby classes could breach equality rules unless the advertiser proves there is a valid reason why fathers should be excluded.
“An advert that restricts goods, facilities and services to a particular group is unlawful except in very limited circumstances,” the guidance says.
The watchdog warns against advertising free club membership for “spouses” because of discrimination against gay men and lesbians in a civil partnership “because of their sexual orientation”.
Adverts for “hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, pubs and recreation centres giving preferential treatment to a particular group, for example an advert stating that women have free entry into a nightclub” would also be illegal, it warns.