Is it legal for a UK company - Company A - that is recruiting, to decide not to consider any applicants who have previously worked at Company B?

In the situation I am navigating, Company B has closed down after going into administration; several former employees of Company B have joined Company A; and the longstanding employees of Company A are dissenting any further recruitment of former Company B hires, regardless of their competence, and even though reinforcements are sorely needed.

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    I know nothing about UK law, but it seems highly doubtful that this is illegal. Companies are typically free to hire employees as they see fit so long as they aren't discriminating in violation of some legally protected status (such as not hiring minorities). Your scenario wouldn't seem to fit that criteria. For a definitive answer, you should consult an employment attorney.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Jun 12 at 19:13
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    Do you for sure by talking to the managers or employees of company A that this is their official policy or unofficial policy ? What would be the reason of them to do that ? --- Or is it just a rumor ? Commented Jun 13 at 0:23
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    "They can, but they may not." Commented Jun 13 at 0:45
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    If they can favor alumni if another company -- and that certainly does happen, if the company is looking for particular experience and skills -- I can't see any reason they couldn't disfavor another.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jun 13 at 6:40
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    In the UK, if you have any questions about discrimination in employment or job applications, or indeed other employment law questions, you can contact the ACAS helpline on 0300 123 1100 for free and confidential advice.
    – Lag
    Commented Jun 13 at 9:14

3 Answers 3


My Gut says probably Legal

So, you cant discriminate on protected characteristics (Race, Religion etc.) - however a former employer is not a protected characteristics.

In Ye-Olden days, you would see a lot of soft discrimination for first jobs around High school (Public Schools > Grammar Schools > Comprehensive schools) - The argument that I heard from certain employers is that they preferred candidates from insert school because they had better experiences with them (work ethic, culture etc.)

This behaviour would very likely fall under that Umbrella - which is allowed.


In reading up about this, there is one specific area, where a company is prohibited from maintaining a Blacklist - and that is where it is targeting Members who are active Union members.

If your industry is one that is heavily unionized and the people from Employer B are all in a Union, then this may be illegal - but IANAL and you would need to discuss this with someone well versed in UK employment law

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    Like in the USA how certain employers require employees to be ivy-leaguers.Or a Harvard man, etc.. Popular especially among high end law firms.
    – Questor
    Commented Jun 13 at 16:58
  • +1 I'd forgotten about the blacklisting thing. There was an out of court settlement in 2014 - commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn06819 Commented Jun 16 at 21:54

If its not discriminating based on the usual suspects, such as gender, race, age etc, then why would it be illegal.

There have been cases where a company decides that another companies practices spoil the employees.

I recall a case in Taiwan where someone worked for IBM for a few years. When he left, no other company would hire him because he was corrupted by foreign work practices.

He lost his case against one company, in court.

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    This makes sense... "Quarantine protection." Those at company 'A' may have (rightly or wrongly) concluded that one of the reasons company 'B' is no longer afloat is related to work ethics/practices prevalent at 'B'. To protect the health and well-being of 'A', prophylactic practices are used.
    – Fe2O3
    Commented Jun 12 at 23:51

I can't give a direct answer because I don't live in the UK and don't know UK employment law.

As others have said, the law prohibits discrimination based on "protected characteristics", like race and religion. The law doesn't prohibit a company from "discriminating" in general. We routinely expect companies to discriminate based on their appraisal of an applicant's competence, work ethic, etc. It's inevitable that there are some things that an employer would consider relevant that an applicant would not, or that one employer would consider relevant and another employer does not.

Is this the only place where you could get a job? Because if not, I'd say, just go somewhere else. Even if you could somehow force the company to hire you, why would you want to work someplace where they don't want you?

I've often heard the advice not to mention anything on my resume that directly or indirectly could indicate my race, religion, political preferences, etc. And my response is, Why not? If a company would refuse to hire me because, say, the boss doesn't approve of my religion, I doubt I'd want to work there. If I had to be careful every day to avoid mentioning anything that could reveal my religion, well that just sounds tiresome. If I was unemployed and desperate to get any job I could get, maybe I'd put up with it. But normally, I'd say, No thanks. I'd rather work some place where they DON'T hate me.

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    In the comments it sounds like the OP is already employed by this company but wants to know if their behaviour is legal Commented Jun 15 at 11:01

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