Recruitment advice for members

Appointing the best people to the right jobs is essential for any organisation. For councillors, recruiting to senior positions may form part of your public duty. Finding and retaining the most talented individuals will have a real impact on the overall performance and effectiveness of your authority.

Competition for the best candidates can be fierce and every authority needs to maximise its opportunities to secure the most talented individuals. From advertising the vacancy creatively to best promote your authority, to rigorous assessment that probes the suitability of applicants; effective recruitment is a complex process.

This quick guide aims to help you fulfil your official role in recruitment. It provides a handy summary of all you need to know in order to recruit and retain the most talented individuals for your top teams.

The Law

The regulations governing councillor involvement in the appointment of senior officers came into force on 7 November 2001 (The Local Authorities (Standing Orders) (England) Regulations 2001 (SI No. 3384). These regulations have been drafted to account for the different constitutional models operating within local government.

You will find that they have been incorporated into your own council’s standing orders and reflected within the scheme of delegated authority. Briefly, the regulations provide that:

 Leader & cabinet execMayor & cabinet execMayor & council managerAlternative arrangements
Appt. of Head of Paid ServiceFull council must approveFull council must approveFull council must approveFull council must approve
Executive objections to appointment of senior officesYesYesNoNo
Appt. of senior offices (Typically AD level and above)Appt.of statutory officers to be approved by authority/ctteeAppt.of statutory officers to be approved by authority/ctteeMust not involve elected membersAppt.of statutory officers to be approved by authority/cttee

Your council’s standing orders may also list a number of other posts in which elected members may be involved in the appointment process. These often include non-statutory senior offices at AD level and above, and specific posts such as the heads of communications and councillor’s services. Councillors also have a direct role in the appointment of political assistants to party groups.

Points of legislation

Below is a quick guide to legislation you must take into account when participating in recruitment on behalf of your authority.

Your own senior personnel and HR professionals will be able to provide more detailed advice and information surrounding each of these pieces of legislation and regulations:

Gender and Sexual Orientation Equal Pay Act 1970 (amended 1983)

It is illegal to pay one gender more than another in jobs that are the same, broadly similar or of equal value.

Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (amended 1999, 2001, 2005)

It is illegal to discriminate against someone on the grounds of his or her sex or marital status in recruitment, promotion or training. Following the Sex Discrimination (Gender Re-Assignment) Regulations 1999, the above now extends to discrimination on the grounds of gender re-assignment. It also covers discrimination against pregnant women (Sex Discrimination (Employment Equality) Regulations 2005).

The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003

Outlaws discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in employment.

Gender Recognition Act 2004

Gives transsexual people recognition in their acquired gender.

Equality Act 2006

Introduces a new public duty to positively promote equality of opportunity in respect of gender.

Race and Religion

  • Race Relations Act 1976, Race Relations Amendment Act 1976 (amended 2000, 2003)

    It is unlawful to discriminate, directly or indirectly, against someone on the grounds of race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origin. Positive action may be possible in terms of advertising and training to encourage and develop under-represented groups. It is also possible, in very limited circumstances, to positively discriminate where a genuine occupational qualification or requirement is established.

    For example you may wish to recruit an Asian woman to head up an Asian women’s refuge. Public authorities have a duty to promote equal opportunities and good race relations. This includes the publication of a Race Equality Scheme. You should familiarise yourself with the contents of your authority’s scheme.

    Public authorities also have a duty to monitor and publish (annually) their employment statistics in respect of race. Your HR professionals should be able to provide you with a copy of the latest set.

  • The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003

    Makes it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of religion or belief.

  • The CRE Code on Employment

    Builds on the above to ensure that employers adopt a recruitment and employment process that is anti-discriminatory.

Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (amended 2003) and Disability Discrimination Act 2005

  • Works in a similar way to the sex and race relations legislation, but also places a duty on employers to adjust their practices and physical premises to allow disabled people to be employed. Again, employers have a positive duty to promote equality of opportunity for disabled people.

    All public authorities should have a Disability Equality Scheme that mainstreams disability equality into policy and functions.


  • The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations

    These regulations outlaw discrimination on the grounds of age and came into force in 2006. In legal terms, it follows the same pattern as existing forms of discrimination law in the UK, namely direct and indirect discrimination, victimisation and harassment.

    Of particular importance is the need to avoid age-based stereotyping during the recruitment process. So, for example, age-related criteria or age ranges should not be used in advertisements other than to encourage applications from age groups which do not usually apply.

    Anyone involved in making decisions about the employment and training of people needs to understand the implications of age stereotyping and ensure that they take action to counter it should it occur.

Other relevant legislation and regulations:

  • Human Rights Act 1998

    This act outlaws discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, religious belief or family circumstances (see also EU Employment Directive below).

  • Asylum and Immigration Act 1996

    As an employer you must check whether a person has a right to work in the UK before offering them a job and that any procedures to comply do not breach the Race Relations Act. This means conducting checks at the same stage in the recruitment process for all candidates.

  • Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974

    Applicants must disclose convictions not ‘spent’ under this law. Probation is spent after a year or until the order expires, while fines and community service are spent after two and a half years. Employers must not discriminate against people with spent convictions.

  • EU Employment Directive (EU Council Directive 2000/78/EC)

    This establishes a ‘general framework’ for equal treatment in employment and is designed to outlaw discrimination on grounds of age, sexual orientation, disability and religion or belief.

    Anti-discrimination law was introduced in December 2003 for sexual orientation and religion, through the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) and the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003.

  • Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks

    Employers are required by law to submit details of candidates they are looking to employ to work with either children or vulnerable adults. A CRB check involves an automatic search of the Police National Computer. This would reveal if a person had been convicted, cautioned, reprimanded or given a warning for a criminal offence; including those that relate to sexual offences.

    If the position for which the CRB check is required involves working with children or vulnerable adults, and the relevant boxes on the application form are crossed, the CRB also checks List 99, the POCA list and POVA list.

    Such enhanced checks account for 90% of the CRB’s checks and involve the CRB contacting police forces and requesting a search of information held locally. This will also include a search of the Sex Offenders Register.

Getting the most out of external consultants

Executive search consultants, or head-hunters, are excellent for working on your behalf to find suitable candidates for positions, especially senior positions in areas where there is shortage of talent.

Some people are sceptical about the value for money executive search can offer. However, the best consultants tend to have very high success rates and can help to promote your authority and attract a strong field for you to choose from.

Choosing an executive search consultancy will usually involve a tendering exercise. When you shortlist consultancies to work with be sure to address these key points:

  • Be clear about what is required. Provide a detailed written brief and ensure that all information given is current and accurate.

  • Do they have experience in this sector or with this sort of role? Always check their track record and check out which consultants will be assigned to your authority and what do you know about them? It is a good idea to interview the consultants on the shortlist.

  • What do they know about your authority and the challenges and opportunities it presents?

  • How will they meet your expectations in respect of equalities and diversity and how will they add value?

  • What do others say? Always take up references.

  • How are their fees structured? Search consultancies will charge either on the basis of a percentage of the salary offered, or a fixed fee. Their fee will not usually include the cost of advertising and other expenses. Fees are often charged in stages, so make sure you are clear about the terms from the outset.

When appointing a consultancy ensure that you understand:

  • The division of responsibilities between the consultancy and your organisation (for example, who will be responsible for checking qualifications or handling references?).

  • The selection tools to be used and the criteria against which applicants will be selected, from the initial approaches to the shortlist stage.

  • Ensure these are consistent with the organisation's recruitment policy. Most consultants will be very flexible and will want to tailor their work according to your needs.

Using their experience in the executive recruitment market, consultants will work with you to deliver the following key benefits:

  1. Define the job description and ideal person specification.

    Ensuring that these are non-discriminatory. For example, they will avoid detailing a specific number of years of experience; they will ensure that candidates reflect the core competencies or criteria of the role, and that they are not too prescriptive.

    All this will help in attracting the most talented candidates and promoting your authority as a professional organisation.

  2. Proactively encourage talented people to apply.

    The people they approach may not even be looking for a new job or know about the vacancy. In such circumstances, the potential candidates may be more comfortable being approached by a third party, particularly to discuss, in confidence, expectations about the job and salary.

  3. Make sure equal opportunities criteria are met.

    Consultants will often place adverts to run in parallel with the search exercise, to ensure fair and open competition for the role. Recruiting the top posts in your organisation can present a valuable PR opportunity.

    Advertising these vacancies can act as a shop window for your authority. Consultants can advise you on the most effective way to maximise advantage.

  4. Assess the applications and interview the strongest candidates.

    This stage of the process is geared towards understanding the candidates. This includes their ability to do the job and make a contribution to the organisation’s effectiveness, and their potential for development. Consultant recommendations will usually group candidates into one of the following:

    • Those that satisfy the criteria and are recommended for further consideration.

    • Those that satisfy some of the criteria, but there are some areas that are not clear, or where they do not satisfy the criteria.

    • Those that do not satisfy the criteria laid out in the person specification.

You will then be able to make an informed decision as to who you should shortlist for your final interview.

10 Top Tips for effective recruitment

  1. Make your involvement in recruitment a priority. The more talented the person you recruit, the more likely they are to deliver your agenda.
  2. Past practice is not always best practice. In an increasingly competitive jobs market you need to be flexible and innovative.
  3. The amount of time you invest will show candidates the importance you attach to the appointment. Commit enough time to the recruitment process and meeting with candidates, and keep to agreed interview dates.
  4. Consider training for yourself and colleagues in recruitment. The way you conduct the interviews will create lasting impressions of you and your organisation – and you want them to be good ones.
  5. Appointing a senior person or team in your organisation is a great opportunity to re-evaluate and refresh your vision, so make the most of it.
  6. Recruiting is also an opportunity to market your organisation and to generate PR. You are already paying for advertising so use this to get across your broader ambitions, not just to attract candidates.
  7. Make sure the information you provide for candidates is top quality, as this will reflect on the whole authority.
  8. Remember that recruitment is a two-way process. It’s not just about whether you want the candidate. Do they want to work for you?
  9. Make sure you follow the law on equal opportunities. Maximising equal opportunities broadens the field of candidates to choose from.
  10. Don’t think your job is done when the appointment is made. Help new leaders and teams develop by providing induction, mentoring and coaching and team development.

If you would like to learn more about how GatenbySanderson can help you, contact us on Leeds 0113 205 6071, London 020 7426 3960 or Birmingham 0121 644 5700.