Jobseekers from ethnic minority backgrounds are not treated by recruitment agencies in an equal way to white candidates, according to Race for Opportunity (RfO).

Research released by the charity today claims that over the past 12 months only 29 per cent of candidates from a black, Asian or ethnic minority backgrounds going through a recruitment agency were offered a job compared to 44 per cent of white applicants.

Furthermore the report, entitled Race and Recruitment: exposing the barriers, stated that just 57 per cent of BAME jobseekers were invited for at least one interview, compared to nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of white candidates.

The study, which included the experiences of 2,500 job seekers over the course of 12 months, concluded that “casual racial discrimination” from recruitment agencies was “prevalent in the UK”.

Sandra Kerr, director at RfO, said: “Tough economic times and rising unemployment levels mean that the current job market is extremely competitive, with a high number of applications for every role.

“If BAME candidates are not being treated fairly by the recruiters at all stages of the job application process, then they are at a distinct disadvantage from the outset.”

Citing reasons of poor initial contact and responsiveness, and being put forward for roles that do not match their skills set, BAME candidates were found less likely to use a recruitment agency than white jobseekers.

Compared to 88 per cent of white candidates, the study showed that 91 per cent of BAME applicants applied straight to an employer rather than using an intermediary.

Tom Hadley, director of policy and professional services at the REC, has responded to the research by urging industry figures to consider the factors that lie beneath the decision to make a job offer such as qualifications and work experience.

He added: “At the same time, there is always more that can be done to recognise and address unconscious bias and to look at established procedures that may indirectly create barriers for job-seekers.”

“There is absolutely no reason for recruiters to do anything other than put together to best possible short-list.”