These questions are being answered by Learn HR, a market leader in the provision of HR and payroll training and nationally-recognised professional qualifications.
Question: "I have been advised that we discriminate unlawfully because all our engineering apprentices are male. We have no objection to female apprentices but no girls apply. Surely we are therefore in the clear?"
HR Tip: No, you are not. You may well not be discriminating deliberately, but the very fact that no girls apply suggests that there is something wrong with your recruitment process. Look at how you recruit and consider whether you do enough to attract girls. Why not contact local schools and send someone along to describe the attractions of engineering? Put in your advertisements "applications from female candidates would be particularly welcomed".
Put an advert in the local paper, or even better persuade the editor to write a feature, in the hope of attracting older females who have a few years experience, understand better what they really want, and accordingly make more diligent trainees. Do the best you can and certainly show evidence that you are trying to attract females.
You should not subsequently give female candidates preferential treatment, but pick the best candidates, be they male or female. By attracting trainees of both genders you are widening your field of choice and almost certainly attracting more good candidates.