Discrimination | Job ad recruiting for 'happy employee' BANNED

Job ad recruiting for 'happy employee' BANNED

Last week, the boss of a small business was told that her ‘happy person’ advert must be taken down as it discriminated against unhappy people – The Daily Mail reported.

Alison Birch, who runs AJ’s unisex hair salon in Gloucestershire, was told that her recruitment note could not stipulate happiness as an employee requirement. 

The job advert read: “Part time fully qualified hairdresser, must be confident in barbering as well as all aspects of hairdressing, must have at least 5 years experience working in a salon, after being fully qualified. This is a busy friendly small salon, so only happy, friendly stylist need apply (sic).” 

According to Birch, after posting the advert she received a call from the local job centre to say that there was a problem. 

“I said what’s that and he said I couldn’t use the word happy because it discriminated against people who aren’t happy,” she told The Daily Mail. 

After posting about the exchange on Facebook, some of her social media friends shared their surprise.

One posted: “The world has gone absolutely mad. Does mean that every descriptive word is discriminative… Happy, tall, smart, elegant…?! Good luck with your search (sic).” 

Another added: “Have your haircut with my new miserable stylist, you will enjoy the experience I am sure, you will come out feeling on top of the world!” 

Yet, since this, a Spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions has apologised and told Metro.co.uk: “We mistakenly advised a customer to amend a job advert but have since offered to repost the original copy and apologised.”

Happiness at work 

Whilst some HR practitioners might think this is overzealous language policing, there are some world-of-work thinkers who could agree with the job centre’s previous ruling. 

Jamie Woodcock, a researcher at University of Oxford, believes that having to ‘perform happiness’ at work is something that has become implicit in the job requirements of many employers. 

As the domestic economy, over the last few years, was underpinned by service work, Woodcock told HR Grapevine that this meant many workers were expected to ‘perform happy’.

However, he said this could also be psychologically draining – adding that having to ‘be happy at work’ could create higher levels of burnout. 

“If you want these things from your workers you should pay them for it fairly,” he added. 

Woodcock also explained that some researchers believe we are now in a broader working culture which promotes toxic positivity where the implication is that you should always be happy at work, regardless of what is happening to you. 

As a result, Woodcock believes that any performance of particular emotions at work should be remunerated fully.  

“My argument is that this should be valued as part of your profession. You should be able to take time off because of it. 

“[Being happy at work] is not an expectation that is valued, in the sense you’re paid more when you use more emotions at work, these are things we are now expected to do.” 

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Comments (1)

  • Toby
    Mon, 7 Sep 2020 2:45pm BST
    To be fair this isn't really the full picture. The Job Centre staff contacted the salon owner and said she couldn't use the word "happy" which she challenged. They called her back later that day to correct their view and stated that the word "happy" was not discriminatory.

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