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Are pubs guilty of sexist advertising?

Recruiters to the pub industry will have to be wary of the language they use in advertisements

The infamous ‘barmaid’ may be about to disappear completely from our vocabulary here in the UK, at least within the realm of recruitment searches and job advertisements. If pubs are guilty of sexist advertising, it certainly won’t look that way from here on in if the government has anything to say about it.

In recent times, although alcohol marketing can still be very steeped in outdated sexism, we have come a long way in assuming that it needs to be served to us by a certain stereotype. Thanks to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), it could now be a criminal offence to advertise on age, gender or country of origin. While many landlords are unaware of their breaches in advertising for new staff, there have been many complaints in recent times that job adverts are indeed discriminatory; moreover, the EHRC has brought out guidelines to help recruiters advertise and stay within the law.


Although intentions may come from a place of well-meaning, advertisers may be falling short by using language such as ‘mature’ or ‘youthful and energetic’.

Pub owners with a high volume of customers may also need an employee who is more adept physically, as such is the nature of this kind of job; however, advertising in search of such an individual may not be in line with new legislation either. This is due to the fact that policies will not allow any language seen as discriminatory against women or those with disabilities.

Although a landlord may need someone with physical strength, they will not be able to advertise for it. Vocabulary should be gender neutral and should not give the idea it is specifically a man’s or a woman’s job; for example, the job titles ‘barman’ and ‘barmaid’ should be replaced with the neutral ‘barperson’ or ‘bartender’.

The chief executive of the EHRC, Rebecca Hilsenrath, made the point that everyone, regardless of gender and physical ability, should be given the chance do the job they would like to do; in addition, there could be many individuals who would never give a job a second thought as the result of stereotypical language within a job description. This, she pointed out, could be a waste of good expertise in a specific field, which would then reflect on the general economy of the country.

The guidelines from the EHRC not only include job advertisements on career websites and other online recruitment sites but also inside any printed publication and physical ads placed in shop windows, for example. Although pubs may have been guilty of sexist advertising in the past, it will certainly not be that way from now on.

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