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France told to enforce anonymous CVs law

Sophie Inge · 9 Jul 2014, 18:00

Published: 09 Jul 2014 18:00 GMT+02:00

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A decision from France’s supreme authority on administrative matters has ordered the government to start enforcing an eight-year-old law requiring job applicants to present anonymous CVs. 

The Council of State says the government has surpassed a “reasonable” delay for the imposition of the 2006 law and gave it six months to issue a decree ordering the rule’s enforcement among the French companies with more than 50 workers, French daily Le Parisien reported.

The council recognized the government ran into some difficulties while drafting the new regulations, but went on to say that didn’t justify the extreme delay. However, the council declined to hit the government with any penalties for its lack of action.

This council'sruling follows pressure from of advocates of the law, who had grown tired of waiting.

In June, the group - including the anti-discrimination association La Maison des Potes -Maison de l’égalité, the political organization MoDem Sciences Po, and law student David Van der Vlist -raised the issue with the council, which finally agreed to rule on whether the eight-year-old law should be adopted.

France seemed to be ahead of the curve when in 2004 it passed it's new anti-discrimination law. In practice, it meant omitting information such as the name, ethnic origins, age and gender of the candidate from CVs.

The new law had plenty of fans. In a 2004 report entitled ‘Businesses with French colours’, insurance group AXA, had pushed for the reform, claiming it would help prevent discrimination in the workplace.

Yet it languished unenforced for nearly a decade. In the interim the law's fans didn’t forget about it.

Hollande promised to apply the law'

Samuel Thomas, President of the Maison des Potes blames France's Socialist government for the non-implementation of the law.

"François Hollande promised us, during his presidential campaign, that he would apply the anonymous CV," he told AFP. “But since he’s arrived in power, we’ve been talking at cross purposes. Now we are using strong-arm tactics.”  

But according to Jessica Ip, a specialist in employment law there are many reasons why companies aren’t keen on anonymous CVs.

One of the main flaws, she says, is that information such as age and origin can often be guessed at from other details in a CV.

“For example, the age can be guessed from the [number of] years the candidate took to obtain a degree or certificate - or from their experience.”

In the case of French CVs, the gender of the candidate can be deduced from the masculine and feminine forms of job titles such as “assistant” and “assistante” (assistant). And the candidate’s origins can sometimes be revealed by the languages he or she speaks.

As for ethnic origins and age, these are likely to be revealed in the next all-important step in the recruitment process: the interview.

“Even though an impression is made based on the skills and experience of the candidate, the employer would still have to meet them before offering the job,” said Ip, from Triplet & Associés law firm.

'Anonymous CVs stop candidate's standing out'

And in any case, the legal expert points out, hiding someone’s ethnic origin may prevent the candidate from standing out from the crowd in a positive way.

“It could suppress the cultural wealth of the candidate or the fact that someone is completely bilingual, which could help them in the selection process.”

Ironically, she adds, the anonymous CV can actually be a handicap when it comes to positive discrimination.

“According to studies, this type of CV discriminates against candidates with an immigrant's background or who live in sensitive urban areas.”

Sophie Inge (sophie.inge@thelocal.com)

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