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APN #65: Who do you call when you suspect biased hiring practices?

The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman wants the right to help people who suspect bias in employment, but reform is slow.

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Who do you call when you suspect biased hiring practices?
Image: Yle News
Yle News

Finland's Non-Discrimination Act may seem complicated because the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman only has a mandate to promote equality in employment but the office does not have the authority to intervene in individual cases of discrimination. In the current system, it's the occupational health and safety authorities that can examine individual cases of suspected bias. That's according to Michaela Moua, a senior officer from the ombudsman's office who spoke with APN on Thursday.

"The Non-Discrimination Ombudsman has for quite some time now stated that the Non-Discrimination Act should be changed or the mandate should be changed to where we would also have 100 percent of the mandate of [overseeing] employment. Meaning that we would also look into individual cases of discrimination," she said.

Moua added that an expanded mandate would increase the judicial rights of individuals and ensure that the ombudsman's office is a low-threshold authority that people can call when they experience discrimination.

She pointed out that Finland appears to be an outlier in Europe in terms of how it has implemented EU directives on non-discrimination, adding that typically equality bodies in Europe have the full mandate to both promote non-discrimination and to act when people report suspected cases of unequal treatment in employment situations.

"We are definitely in the minority when it comes to not having the full mandate for employment life," she commented.

"Shift in understanding" needed

Discrimination in working life happens not only during the hiring process. It can also be in relation to pay, career advancement or even if an employee becomes pregnant. Whatever the circumstances, bias in recruitment can be difficult to prove, because employers are not bound to provide specific reasons why a candidate was or was not hired.

Moua said that one way to address suspected recruitment discrimination would be to require employers to inform applicants of the grounds for non-selection. She added that tactics such as anonymous recruitment and employment quotas would help bring fairness to recruitment processes, but said that ultimately, they are just band-aids.

She called for a fundamental "shift in understanding" about the issue and said that people and firms need to trust research that shows the value that diversity can bring, in terms of efficiency, success and profitability:

"I feel like the organisations who have understood this and are already trying to ensure they have diverse people working for their organisations are the ones who are already doing well and the ones who are refusing to get on board are the ones who will fall short," she declared.

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This week's show was presented by Ronan Browne. Reporters were Egan Richardson and Denise Wall and Denise also produced the show. Our sound designer and audio engineer was Laura Koso.

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