Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Another unreliable 'PC gone mad' story

It was the lead story on the Mail website this morning:

It was on the front page of the Express:

And it also made the Star and Telegraph, although all four stories are suspiciously similar, with the same quotes in much the same order.

And as the first screenshot shows, the Mail story was gaining (unmoderated) comments by the hundred, almost all of them proclaiming it's 'political correctness gone mad'.

But is it?

Nicole Mamo, the Director of Devonwood Recruitment (which, conveniently, happens to get several mentions throughout all the articles...) tried to post a job ad for a cleaner. The last line read:

Must be reliable and hard-working.

Mamo claims when she phoned the JobCentre to check the advert was being displayed she was told it wouldn't be, because:

they could have cases against them for discriminating against unreliable people.

It doesn't sound very likely. But that's never stopped a 'PC gone mad' story before.

This one comes with an inevitable quote from the strange Campaign Against Political Correctness who say the whole situation is:

'absolutely ridiculous'.

Indeed. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, usually the baddies in stories such as this, say:

'This is in no way in breach of any discrimination law. Mrs Mamo should consider very unreliable any advice that she may have received implying that this aspect of her advert was discriminatory.'

Hmm. Now maybe 'Carol' does actually exist and maybe she did actually say this nonsense about not being able to use 'reliable'. But, if it's true, it's one person making a silly mistake. Hardly a 'diktat' as the Mail calls it.

And hardly something that seems worth the effort of contacting the press about. Unless, of course, you were running a recruitment company and wanted to get some free publicity.

Surely that couldn't be it?

Well, as usual, you need to scroll right to the end of the story to find the view from the other side. And what does the spokesperson from the Department of Work and Pensions say?

'We cannot comment about the phone call. I can confirm that we took the advert from the employer and put it onto our website. Every advert goes onto our website and onto the job points.

'Reliability is important to employers, as it is for Jobcentre Plus - and we welcome ads seeking reliable applicants.'


So when the Telegraph and Express says the ad was 'banned', that's 'banned' in the sense that it was posted everywhere it was meant to appear.

And when the Star says the Job Centre refused to display the ad, what they meant was, they displayed the ad on the internet and on the JobPoints.

In the end - the Equality people say there's no problem with using 'reliable', the DWP says there is no problem with using 'reliable' and this advert was posted where it was supposed to be posted.

So what's the story here?

(Chris Spann's take on the Mail article is available here)


  1. I work in HR and there's no way in hell that someone with ANY experience of employment law or placing ads would advise this... I've also worked in recruitment and know they are going through a tough economic time now and would say anything / sell their grandma for some free press.

    You can't even tell lies to the public in a shameless attempt to promote your business these days... It's political correctness gon... Oh, wait... she just DID

  2. I'm glad to see your take on it. It smelled to me from the beginning.

  3. The Mail comments got me so fed up that I had to leave my own comment, just out of frustration if nothing else. At least it made it up and I await the red arrows.

    I know I should expect no better from Mail readers, but they never cease to amaze me with their blinkeredness and failure to actually read a story.

    I feel a bit grubby now.

  4. Too late, it's already entered the wider world as established fact, just like Winterval and a load of other made-up bollocks. From Max Hastings' column for today's Mail:

    "Harmanism is reflected in a thousand Government initiatives to fight alleged unfair disadvantage - one of them revealed this week by the Norfolk Jobcentre, which rejected an advertisement specifying that applicants should be 'reliable' workers. This, asserted the Jobcentre, discriminated against unreliable workers."

  5. Shellsuitwarrior28 January 2010 at 15:18

    When I first heard this story, I thought it smelled a bit fishy too.

    So I gave Nicole Mamo a call (as I'm a journo and Thetford's in my patch) yesterday morning.

    My instinct suggested it was some kind of publicity stunt, but her website's under reconstruction - so I figured if it was some kind of PR move, it was a little ham-fisted.

    Anyway she told me the story and I have to say, I didn't detect any deceit on her part.

    She was quite surprised at all the media interest as she said that she had simply made some comment on her Facebook page at what had happened. Somehow (and this was a little odd) the Adrian Goldberg show on Talksport picked it up and interviewed her.

    It then made it to the wider media somehow. From looking at the Mail website, there's a credit to Mason's on the photo - which is a Cambridgeshire based news agency. I'm guessing someone there must have listened to Talksport, did a piece on her and circulated it.

    Here's my theory on what happened:

    Mamo tries to place her job ad. It comes across the desk of a low-level worker at the Thetford Job Centre. They've misinterpreted some recent guidance on what is acceptable in a job ad - and in an arse-covering excercise, they tell her she can't use 'reliable' in her ad.

    Surprised at this Mamo posts a Facebook update and the whole thing snowballs from there.

  6. Shellsuitwarrior - thanks for the info. But did she confirm/deny the ad ran with 'reliable' in it?

  7. Shellsuitwarrior28 January 2010 at 15:45

    To be honest, I can't remember if I asked her that.

    I know that sounds shit, but what happened is that unbeknownst to me, someone else from my organisation had already set up an interview with her - so I didn't go into the ins and outs of the whole thing.

    I then had a truly awful day which I drowned out with some wine.

  8. Shellsuitwarrior28 January 2010 at 15:48

    Just realised, meant to put on the end of that second post - is that I'm saying my memory of the day isn't 100%.

  9. I think there's one obvious explanation. Whoever took the call was doing something we used to call 'joking.'


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