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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Monday, May 14, 2007

In which we name and shame

You know, I like Sitemeter. Always have. It tells me I'm averaging 142 visits a day at the moment (which is nice of it); it tells me where my visitors live; it tells me how long they stay and how many pages they visit.

But, more importantly than all of that, it tells me how they found this blog. Which gives me really far more insight than I would wish to have into the detailed desires of various sad, lonely men around the world. All of whom must weep with disappointment when Google sends them in my direction.

But I've got a corker for you now. Nothing to do with bizarre fetishes involving young women and, er, cherries. Nothing so dull. Something much better, in fact. Oh, you are going to love this...

At 12.09 pm today, someone was directed to my blog as a result of having run the following search term through Google:

"When is it ok to not employ a disabled person?"

See? I told you you'd love it. Ah, but wait. I haven't finished yet. It gets better.

I delved slightly deeper into sitemeter than I have previously been wont to do. And, bless it, it furnished me with an IP address. The person who ran that search did so from a computer belonging to Southampton City Council.

Now, Southampton City Council: they're a public sector service provider, right? So they'll be subject to the Disability Equality Duty. Which means, if I'm not mistaken, that they must have published a Disability Equality Scheme. Last year. Mustn't they?

Let's see if we can persuade Google to point us towards it, shall we? Oh yes, here it is. (Well, actually, it's not. Under the DED, the scheme should have been published no later than the 1st of December last year. What we have here are "Draft Actions for the Equality Scheme". Which seems to be something rather less ... finished. Something a tad incomplete. But, unless my interwebnet searching skills have deserted me, it's the closest we're going to get to what we're actually looking for.)

Ok, so: scrolling....

Ah, yes. Here we are. Employment. Jolly good.

"The council wants to be the ‘employer of choice’ for all our diverse communities and have a workforce that is more representative of the communities we serve.

Disabled people are under-represented as employees of the council. We propose to take a range of steps that seek to increase employment of, and opportunities for, disabled people.
For example:
• reviewing our recruitment process
• continuing to develop ‘traineeships’
• improving disability equality awareness of managers through training."

Well, goodness me: isn't that interesting? Presumably conducting feverish web searches for when it's ok to not employ a disabled person falls under the "reviewing our recruitment process" bullet point, then? Although I'm pretty sure I can't be the only one who can't quite see how that fits in with the stated aim of increasing the employment of, and opportunities for, disabled people.

Because it seems to me - and, you know, call me cynical if you like - that what Southampton City Council are actually trying to do here is to weasel their way out of the equality-conscious aim the Disability Discrimination Act 2005 browbeat them into publishing, albeit only in draft form.

If there's an innocent interpretation of this which the red mist of my incandescent rage is preventing me from seeing, then by all means bring it to my attention. But you've got to admit that, on the face of it, it doesn't look good.

In the meantime, Southampton City Council, let me tell you precisely when it would be ok not to employ a disabled person. (You think I'm going to say, "Never!" now, don't you? You think I'm an uppity crip with the bit between her teeth, and I'm going to suggest you sack all your current non-disabled staff and replace them with disabled people. You think I'm completely unreasonable. You're wrong.)

You can employ whoever the hell you like. It would seem sensible to employ the best person for the job whenever a vacancy arises, but no-one can make you do that. What you can't do - and this is the important bit, so you may want to pay attention - what you can't do is fail to offer a disabled person the job if, by that action, you are treating that person less favourably than you would a non-disabled person for reasons relating directly to his or her impairment. (Strange as it might seem, refusing someone employment just because he or she is disabled does count as less favourable treatment. The law's funny like that.)

In other words, you can search Google until the cows come home, but you're not going to find a list of handy hints about circumstances under which you would have blanket justification for not offering a job to a disabled person. Because that would be disability discrimination. And that's illegal.

The Editor


Blogger Jess said...

Hm. Okay, imagine this: You are an intelligent and sensible person somehow associated with the Southampton City Council. You have gotten into an argument with...oh, let's say a coworker. Over the subject of equal employment. They've claimed that there are times when it is perfectly hunkydorey to not hire someone with a disability. You, in a rage, sat down and went on a net search to see exactly when this sort of reprehensible idea would be justified. In the course of your travels acros the interweb, you encountered the blog of Lady Bracknell and left behind a very easy to misinterpert record.

...it doesn't sound very convincing to me either.

For the record, I found your blog while wandering through people who'd blogged for disability day. Once I'd read a few posts, I stayed. You're the only non-knitting blog I've got bookmarked.

Lady Bracknell: come for the smarts, stay for the snark.

5:24 pm  
Blogger Katie said...

Last time anyone was sent to me by Google, the search was for 'british fold up bike'.

I can only assume they went away disappointed.

The internet is a frightening place.

Well done.

6:32 pm  
Blogger marmiteboy said...

May they hang their collective heads in shame. Unfortunately I fear they may be the tip of the iceberg.

6:43 pm  
Blogger Penny L. Richards said...

Brava! Nothing like some good sitemeter-spurred investigative naming and shaming. The fools should know this: Bloggers are watching.

6:49 pm  
Blogger R said...

I would love to think that this will end in someone becoming very, very unemployed very suddenly.

Unfortunately, they probably won't even do the necessary legwork to work out who it was.

Not quite as stupid as the visiting professor at my old college who snarled "you think they'd at least employ people that can speak English" at our much beloved and extremely competent Jamaican refectory worker... within earshot of the then head of the Equal Opportunities board. I hope said professor enjoyed their time at the college because I hear it's come to a rather abrupt end.

7:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well that's really rather outrageous. I don't think I've ever been both stunned and unsurprised before.

I have to confess that can't help but find it just the tiniest bit amusing that said City Council Person found the issue so complex, so utterly daunting, that he or she felt compelled to consult Google for advice with a direct question, as though it were a Magic 8-ball: "Never mind the law, or my own quietly nagging doubts! To the internets! Technology will answer!" My sources say you have no will of your own. Have you? Etc.

One of my recent Google hits came from a New Yorker looking for information about-- and I quote-- "giving someone the finger on the street." Frankly I'm surprised they'd need to look it up.

9:29 pm  
Blogger Mary said...

I would hope the answer to "when is it okay to not employ a disabled person" would be "if they don't have the skills you are looking for," just like a non-disabled person.

Perhaps someone on their first interview panel, saw five candidates, four were rubbish, one was perfect for the job... but one of the four unsuitable applicants was disabled and he's wondering if it's "allowed" to reject the disabled applicant.

My strangest sitemeter referral (apart from all those disturbing, lonely, and sadly disappointed souls) was a couple of days ago. I had someone find my site by searching "how to fake upset an ECG". Grrr.

11:46 pm  
Blogger the queen said...

Do you know, if you google "when is it acceptable to not employ Lady Bracknell specifically?" you get 549 hits. However, a google of "when is it acceptable to not employ members of the Southampton City Council?" gets 176,000 hits.

4:04 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...


Yes, that's the only even vaguely convincing innocent interpretation I could think of. Although there's something very amiss with the way their draft DES objectives have been communicated to their managers if one of them is seriously worried about refusing a job to someone unsuitable who just happens to be disabled.

But, if that is what happened, why would you Google? The natural thing to do if you are unsure about an HR issue would be to consult the HR department.

So I remain extremely suspicious.

7:51 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Your majesty,

Quite, quite brilliant: thank you.

7:52 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

"Lady Bracknell: come for the smarts, stay for the snark."

Oh, I love this. It's such a huge compliment. Thank you.

Now, if only I could find somewhere on the blog template to use it... ;-)

7:55 am  
Blogger Katie said...


In other news, someone just found me by searching for 'ungrateful bitch'.

Which is probably quite accurate.

2:49 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@LB: knowing what I know as a non-disabled person about perceptions of people with disability (usually amongst people who unlike me have never bothered to find out or had any interest), that "wondering if you're allowed to reject a disabled applicant" sounds plausible.

And for what it's worth, the biggest two sets of referrals to my blog this week were for "cheap shoes" and "pokemon porn". Although I did get one relating to the DED too...

11:56 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with Mary.

One reason why anti-discrimination leglislation often gets a bad name as "political correctness gone mad" is because not enough guidance and leadership is provided for public sector workers. They therefore err on the side of caution, which only serves to reverse the discrimination, rather than eliminate it.

11:38 am  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

Which is precisely why I have laid the blame with the Council itself rather than with the hapless (and possibly innocent) individual who ran the search.

They have broken the law by not publishing their Disability Equality Scheme (which should have contained this sort of information if it wasn't already available in their recruitment guidance) by the due date.

Which, frankly, tells me everything I need to know about the level of commitment from the top towards eliminating disability discrimination in its employment practices.

11:57 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lady Bracknell will be gratified to learn that google now only finds 527 hits for the phrase (sans quotation marks) "when is it acceptable to not employ Lady Bracknell specifically?" which means 22 of the pages that The Queen found last month have disappeared. Perhaps those 22 people have decided they are now willing to consider extending an offer of employment to Lady Bracknell. (This page is the first among those 527 hits, though. One wonders ....)

When I tried googling "when is it acceptable to not employ members of the Southampton City Council?" I got 178,000 hits, which I suppose means that there are now an additional 2,000 people who wish to decline employment to members of the Southhammpton City Council. This page is again the lead hit. Does this mean that Lady Bracknell wishes to deny employment BOTH to herself and ALSO to members of the Southhampton City Council? Of course, as an aristocrat, I suppose she considers herself above mere plebian employment! ;-)


6:34 pm  

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