Advertising for recent graduates does not necessarily discriminate against age in New Zealand, but experts here warn the surprisingly high number of employers advertising for "young" staff" could be in breach of the Human Rights Act.

An investigation by the BBC in the UK found that publishing terms such as recent or new graduate could be breaching its anti-age discrimination laws because it implied employers were after younger workers.

The Herald's own search of New Zealand job sites found about a dozen jobs advertising for new or recent graduates including many who wanted "young'' staff.

On Seek.co.nz about 50 advertisers were after "recent graduates'' and 48 used the term "new graduates'', while Trade Me had about 19 job ads targeting "recent graduates'' and 25 for 'new graduates'.

Advertisement

Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Jackie Blue said seeking a "young" mechanic could be perceived as discriminatory under the Human Rights Act.

"While there are some exceptions in the Human Rights Act for age discrimination in employment, such as where being of a certain age or in a particular age group is a genuine occupational qualification - for example managing licensed premises - it is good practice not to ask about a job applicant's age or to limit the age of prospective job applicants."

James Dunne, a partner at public and employment law firm Chen Palmer, said using the words "new'' or "recent graduate" did not necessarily discriminate because older people could also be recent graduates. However a company would be overstepping the mark if it specified age, gender or culture.

Dundas Street Employment Lawyers partner Susan Hornsby-Geluk said advertisers often used descriptions such as "fresh" or "new ideas" to avoid mentioning age, she said.

"If you are spelling it out, such as seeking a young chef, then on its face that will be discriminatory. If you use words which imply that you want somebody young without directly saying that - if your conduct then suggests that you have discriminated - that might be a breach of the Human Rights Act."

Hays NZ managing director Jason Walker said there was no age discrimination to doing a degree so it was acceptable for organisations to advertise for "new or recent graduates". Rather than using "young" which could reduce the talent pool and cause diversity issues or "junior" which could be considered an indirect attempt to get a young person into the role, it was more advisable to use the word "trainee".

Examples of discriminatory or potentially discriminatory ads found on Seek and Trade Me:

* Young and vibrant waiting staff wanted

Advertisement

* We're looking for vibrant salespeople with a young, passionate energy

* This job (curtain cleaning assistant) could suit a young person

* We are looking for a motivated young chef

* We're in growth mode recruiting for a young and ambitious Wellington-based Diesel Mechanic

* If you're a motivated, talented young marketer

* An administrator for an early learning centre who is "young at heart but mature in experience"

* We're on the hunt for young, fit and competent carpenters for immediate starts

* An opportunity exists for a creative and talented young chef

* Young person willing to learn - mechanic technician

* Apprentice carpenter builder wanted - would suite keen young person or someone who is already an apprentice

* We are looking for a young person to become part of our hard working team of boat builders as a labourer general assistant

* Due to growth, we have a vacancy for a keen young person to join the team - junior driver store person electrical wholesaling