A job advert has been slammed online for saying potential candidates must have the “ability to deal with male banter and be sociable, but not distracting”.
The job, for an Executive Assistant and Investor Relations Associate, was posted on Guardian Jobs and reed.co.uk by recruitment agency RMS recruitment.
The company advertising the role is unclear, although the ad described it as a “property investment client in Mayfair”.
The ad has been heavily criticised by both women’s rights campaigners and Twitter user, with some saying “male banter” is an outdated excuse for harassment.
Following the backlash, Guardian Jobs and reed.co.uk have both removed the ad from their sites, while RMS recruitment has said it “regret[s] any offence that the job description may have caused”.
The advert first gained widespread attention when theatre director Hannah Joss posted a snapshot of it on Twitter.
The full ad was later posted by a second Twitter user, where the job’s 40K-45K salary, plus bonus, was clearly visible.
Commenting on the advert, Sam Smethers, chief executive of women’s rights charity the Fawcett Society, said “male banter is code for sexual harassment”.
“This ad, placed in mainstream job websites, reveals how sexual harassment is normalised in our culture,” she told HuffPost UK.
“These sites need to review their guidelines for the job ads they are accepting.”
Caitlin Roper, from women’s right campaign group Collective Shout, said the ad is a reminder that “even in this day and age, the workplace is man’s domain, and women must be willing to play by men’s rules”.
“The term ‘male banter’ seeks to downplay the sexist and demeaning treatment of women in the workplace as a bit of fun, harmless banter. It’s not the everyday sexism that’s regarded as a problem, but women’s opposition to it,” she told HuffPost UK.
“The woman described in the advert is a ‘cool girl’, one who tolerates mistreatment, laughs at sexist jokes and won’t call male co-workers out for their sexist comments and routine objectification of women. Essentially, they want a woman who knows her place.”
Some on Twitter were also keen to point out that no one should have to “deal” with so-called banter.
Others have questioned some of the duties listed in the ad, such as what’s really implied by the requirement to give “very ad-hoc private support”.
Enrique Garcia, employment law consultant for the ELAS Group, told HuffPost UK “banter can often be used as an excuse for harassment”.
“Harassment is where a person subjects another to unwanted conduct which violates that other person’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the other person,” he explained.
“Harassment includes unwanted conduct of a sexual nature. Where unwanted conduct is not specifically intended to have the effect detailed above but does, and it is reasonable for the victim to have felt that way, then legally that is also harassment.”
He said calling these types of behaviour “banter” never makes them acceptable and if the successful candidate started work and the “banter” did cross into “areas of unacceptability including, but not limited to, sexist, misogynist or racist jokes then they could certainly be good grounds for a claim”.
He added that companies need to be careful about “indirect discrimination” in their ads.
“While the ad does not specify whether the company is looking for male or female applicants, it can reasonably be deduced that by specifying the candidate must be able to put up with ‘male banter’ the majority of existing staff are male,” he said.
“This ad is implying one of two things; either the applicant should be male to fit in with the existing workforce or, if they are female, they should be able to put up with ‘laddish’ behaviour.
“The company would need to ensure that their hiring process is fair and applied equally to both male and female applicants. Whilst the advert doesn’t stop women from applying, if a female candidate applied and didn’t get the job she could consider an indirect discrimination claim if she felt that the reason she was unsuccessful was due to being judged less likely to be able to ‘deal with male banter’ than a male candidate.”
In response to criticism of the advert, an RMS recruitment spokesperson told HuffPost UK: “We regret any offence that our job description may have caused, this was never our intention.
“Our promise to clients and candidates alike is to find a perfect match of skills attitudes and personality that enables the client to get great value and service from their new employee and for the candidate to enjoy and thrive in their new role. We believe we can only achieve this by being completely transparent and honest.
“This was working for an equal opportunity employer with appropriate best practice human resource policies, which we ourselves also adhere to and insist on with all our clients. As part of our commitment to equal opportunities and best practice in the workplace, we do not condone any form of bullying or sexual harassment.”
They added that going forward, they will ensure “any advert published is not open to misinterpretation”.
A spokesperson from job site reed.co.uk told HuffPost UK: “At reed.co.uk, we take our responsibilities as a recruitment advertising platform, used by thousands of jobseekers every day, very seriously. As such, we have a number steps in place to ensure jobs advertised with us comply with all appropriate legislation, are non-discriminatory and, of course, genuine.
“Clearly, in this instance, an advertiser has used inappropriate language in their posting. We are taking immediate steps to remove the vacancy listing from reed.co.uk whilst we work with the advertiser to ensure they are made fully aware of relevant legislation affecting their recruitment and their responsibilities as an advertiser.”
A Guardian News & Media spokesperson said: “The job advertisement in question was unacceptable and has been removed from our site. We have made clear to the recruiter that the language used in the advertisement was inappropriate and have suspended their account permanently.”