A government-run recruitment agency told a salon that they could not post a job advertisement looking for a “happy” hairstylist because the word was “discriminatory” against unhappy people.
Alison Birch from AJ’s Unisex Hair Salon in Stroud, Gloucestershire, claimed that Jobcentre Plus, part of the Department for Work and Pensions, had contacted her after applying to post an advert with them that stated: “This is a busy, friendly, small salon, so only happy, friendly stylist need apply.”
On Thursday, Mrs Birch told The Mirror that the government agent had called her to say that they could not run the advert because the word “happy” was “discriminatory”. At first believing the phone call to be a prank, the experienced businesswoman was astounded once the caller offered to read her the lengthy rules about discrimination.
He allegedly said: “Should we change the word in case somebody thinks that they can’t apply for the job because they are not a happy person?”
“But I only want happy people,” Ms Birch recalled telling the man from the job shop.
He allegedly responded: “As I said, it is a discriminatory word and you are not allowed to use it, somebody who is not happy will be discriminated against.”
The salon owner then pulled the advert from Jobcentre Plus after refusing to change the wording.
Mrs Birch said: “I just can’t see how it is discrimination to anybody. Everybody is so politically correct these days.
“But he insisted he could not list the advert on their job site with that word on it.
“I told him I was perfectly happy with the use of the word ‘happy’, and that he could just take it off their site and I’d find somewhere else to list it.”
— Breitbart Tech (@BreitbartTech) December 16, 2018
In 2019, the notionally conservative government outlawed alleged “harmful” gender stereotypes from British advertising, which has resulted in a number of bizarre bans by the Advertising Standards Authority.
In January, the freelancer website PeoplePerHour was forced to apologise for a poster ad campaign that featured a businesswoman with the phrase “girl boss” in it because it was deemed sexist, despite the term being coined by a well-known female entrepreneur. In the same month, the ASA went after computer firm PC Specialist because one of their ads only had men in it.
The body demanded the removal of a Volkswagon television commercial in 2019 because it featured men being “adventurous” astronauts in one scene, while a woman was portrayed as a “passive” caring mother with a baby in another. The ASA said that Volkswagon had “directly contrasted stereotypical male and female roles and characteristics in a manner that gave the impression that they were exclusively associated with one gender.
“We concluded that the ad presented gender stereotypes in a way that was likely to cause harm and therefore breached the Code.”
The ASA had said that gender stereotypes “play a part in limiting people’s potential”, with its investigations manager claiming they could cause “real-world harms”.
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 29, 2016