No 10 have refused to comment on the job ad - which will see new advisers working in the heart of government.
Dominic Cummings – Johnson’s chief adviser – has caused a stir with a new job ad to work in the heart of government, with the former Vote Leave director called for ‘assorted weirdos’ to join him.
Cummings’ new posting says: “We want to hire some VERY clever young people either straight out of university or recently out with with extreme curiosity and capacity for hard work.”
There are plenty of issues with the rambling post. Requesting applicants from a certain age group is almost certainly age discrimination. The government’s own guidance says: “You must not imply in a job advert that you will discriminate against anyone.”
It is also in breach of civil service guidance. Amusingly, the civil service’s own recruitment strategy document claims “age is just a number.”
The civil service management code is very clear: In recruitment, “there must be no unfair discrimination on the basis of age” or other protected characteristics. Cummings could not, for example, say he was looking for “VERY clever white people”. Obviously.
But here’s the thing: it’s not clear if this is an official civil service job. With No 10 refusing to comment on the record when asked by Left Foot Forward, we don’t know yet. Applications are being sent to a private gmail account – not a government email. Advertising solely on his own personal blog. Cummings is clear that these hires will be working ‘in Downing Street with the best officials, some as spads and perhaps some as officials.’ So how is he seemingly able to flout almost every hiring policy in the book?
Whether they become official civil service jobs or not, comments in job ads favouring a certain age group are ‘likely to be discriminatory’ according to ACAS’ own advice (they are a key regulator in employment law).
The official civil service advice on the conduct of Special Advisers – of which Cummings is one – is pretty clear: they cannot directly hire civil servants. So these would appear to be ‘private’ political hires. In which case, there will be even less transparency over these appointments than usual.
Let’s take another issue with the job ad. Previous government commissioned the Taylor Review to tackle workplace exploitation. Though weak, it was consistent in seeking to tackle ‘one sided flexibility’ in employment: where people could be taken on and sacked at the drop of a hat. Cummings seems to be throwing that out of the window, writing: “I will bin you within weeks if you don’t fit.”
It’s an insight into the mindset of the man whispering into Johnson’s ear. A figure in employment law tells me – worryingly – that we’re yet to see what the new government does with working practice policies, and whether they continue on the same path as May, which did see some gains in employment rights.
The alarm bells aren’t just ringing, they are deafening.
Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.
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