Recently The Crew Report received an email from a chief stewardess on a new-build project, frustrated with what she had seen from an Australian recruitment agency. “Facebook has really dumbed down the yacht recruitment world. [Recruitment agencies] publicly put on Facebook things like, ‘no older than 35’ or ‘must be Eastern European’. Yachting has a bad name but this makes matters worse,” she tells me. “I am appalled at this blatant unprofessional approach to crewing. Yes, yachting is selective but it was always unspoken – if we asked for a Spanish Stewardess or a French chef it was kept under the table. I have emailed the recruitment company but did not receive an acknowledgement or response, hence me passing this on to you.”
The Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 (MLC) has tried to address this in Article III (d) which sets out that provisions are put in place to assist with the “elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation”. In the UK, protection of crew and potential crew from discrimination is given by the Equality Act 2010 and some additional legislation. “In the UK it is prohibited to discriminate on nationality, gender or age as these are protected characteristics. This means that a UK company or citizen cannot advertise for a position specifying a certain nationality, gender, age, nor sexual orientation of religious belief. If the owner is a UK citizen or the ship is registered in the UK then UK legislation will be applicable. The laws will also apply to a UK agency recruiting staff on behalf of a ship or captain,” explains Mark Rothman of Jefferies Law, via Yacht Crew PA.
“Even if the advert ensured there was no discrimination in who can apply, the recruitment process must continue on a non-discriminatory basis and the field of applicants cannot be whittled down based on any protected characteristics, or the successful applicant chosen on that basis,” adds Rothman. “Of course proving this might be more difficult as you can rarely be sure what is going on in a captain’s mind.”
"To target candidates that meet with client specifications a crew agent may use indirect language."
These laws have been around for some time, and not just in the UK by any means, but this hasn’t seem to have had a huge affect on the yachting industry. Louise Cailbourdin, crewing manager at The Crew Network points out that the wording used in a job advertisement can still suggest particular requirements. “The owner or hiring manager preferences may be selective when it comes to uniform size, degree of attractiveness, age and nationality, but this cannot be stated. To target candidates that meet with client specifications a crew agent may use indirect language.” Cailbourdin points out a few examples;
“If an Italian owner feels more at home with an Italian captain then the advertisement may request a fluent Italian speaker or Italian to mother tongue level”;
“If a young captain wants youthful crew on board then the advertisement may emphasise the need for crew that practice sports and an active lifestyle”.
However, according to Cailbourdin, things are improving. “What I have noticed over the past 10 to 15 years is that discrimination is lessening as the industry becomes more regulated and cosmopolitan. I am sure that every agent in Antibes can currently quote the names of captains in their early 60s and pursers or chief stewardesses in their 50s who have recently found employment.”