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Kate Palmer


HR Advice and Consultancy Director

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‘No snowflakes’ – is job advert discriminatory, or just direct?

A viral job advert has come under fire for using discriminatory language but how can you be direct without causing offence?
Crying woman holding her face in her hands

Every industry has experienced its fair share of ‘flaky’ employees. In fact, studies show that one in five new hires who have accepted a job offer fails to show up on their first day.
So let’s say you have a job vacancy within your business. It’s only natural that you’d want the person filling it to be hard-working, loyal, and punctual.

You don’t want to have to stress about no-shows and tardiness when you have a business to run. But to what extent would you go, to ensure that you only attract applicants who will turn up every day and get the job done to a good standard?

Is there an issue in the way that this landlord is trying to attract talent? Or is it in fact, an effective method to target suitable applicants?

Cheshire pub goes viral for cheeky job advert

A pub in Cheshire looking to recruit a chef recently made the headlines when the landlord advertised the role by placing a blackboard out the front of the pub stating: “Chef wanted. Please ask inside for details. No snowflakes please!!”

The owner of the family-run pub went on to share a photo of the board on their business’s Facebook page which then went viral across social media, dividing public opinion.

How did people react to the ad?

While some have praised the landlord and his no-nonsense approach to recruitment, others are failing to see the funny side, blasting the advert for being offensive and divisive.

One Facebook user commented: “Nothing attracts good candidates like an advert that warns of a toxic boss” while another more HR-savvy user said: “You can’t discriminate against snowflakes under the Equality Act 2010.”

On the other hand, one user clearly supported the landlord’s stance, saying: “I have never visited your pub before, but I will certainly make a visit when passing as I am sure many others will do now.”

So, is it all just a bit of a joke, or a more serious issue?

So, is there an issue in the way that this landlord is trying to attract talent? Or is it in fact, an effective method to target suitable applicants?

The landlord’s reasoning for his choice of language was down to his previous struggles with ‘flaky’ employees constantly wanting time off.

And while a certain level of empathy might be granted here as any manager will understand the pressures of being understaffed and managing holidays, all whilst running a business, it does bring into question whether the tone and language used are acceptable.

A job advert is often the employer’s chance to make a great first impression on potential candidates

What does snowflake even mean?

Calling someone a ‘snowflake’ is a derogatory word. It is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as an insulting way to refer to someone who is considered by some people to be too easily upset and offended.

But it’s also a word loaded with the potential to be misinterpreted. Potential candidates may simply not know what it means. The landlord actually seems to have misinterpreted the true meaning of the word himself in thinking that unreliability equates to being a ‘snowflake’.

And, given that it’s a term usually applied to millennials, there could well be a risk of age discrimination at play here if a claimant was able to successfully prove that the word refers to those with a protected characteristic.

Despite a jobseeker not actually being an employee yet, it’s still just as unlawful to discriminate against them as it would be if they were a member of the staff.

So, what should the landlord have done?

A job advert is often the employer’s chance to make a great first impression on potential candidates. As such, it’s always best to ensure that job adverts are clear and set out the benefits of the role to encourage candidates to apply.

It should really go without saying that the language in job adverts should be non-discriminatory and inclusive. And avoid using any language that could potentially be open to interpretation, or you could face issues down the road when misunderstanding and miscommunication occur.

Employers should avoid making assumptions and generalisations about potential candidates as this can increase the risk of unconscious bias in the recruitment process and recruitment decisions that may discriminate against particular groups.

So, does wanting a good work/life balance = snowflake?

It’s certainly true that for the most part, the pandemic has seen made many people re-assess their priorities and look for more of a balance between their work responsibilities and their home life. As such, flexible and hybrid working practices remain high on many candidates’ wish lists when searching for that new role. However, this does not necessarily mean that they are ‘flaky’ or not hardworking. 

As the old adage goes, it takes all sorts to make a world – and the same applies to a workplace

To immediately discount any applicant who places a value on maintaining a good work-life balance could well lead to a discrimination claim, so it’s always best to avoid any approach that isn’t inclusive in every way.

In fact, employers who understand and value a good work/life balance, and particularly those who offer flexible working arrangements, can benefit from a more committed, loyal, and productive workforce.

As the old adage goes, it takes all sorts to make a world – and the same applies to a workplace. Employers should never lose sight of that as they look to build their teams, and instead, focus on the benefits that diversity of thought and experiences within their workforce can bring.

Interested in this topic? Read Out in the cold: Gen Z feels isolated and unsupported.

Author Profile Picture
Kate Palmer

HR Advice and Consultancy Director

Read more from Kate Palmer

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