THE territory's five major employers associations yesterday made an unanimous appeal to all Hong Kong businesses to scrap discriminatory employment practices. Unveiling their Equal Employment Opportunity guidelines, the associations urged local employers to recruit, promote and train staff based on genuine job qualifications such as technical skills or experience. Discrimination of any kind against people in their jobs on grounds of gender, age, martial status, religion, race, nationality and disability should be discontinued, the associations said. For example, recruitment advertisements should avoid making a particular age or gender an essential job requirement. The five associations are the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, Chinese General Chamber of Commerce, Federation of Hong Kong Industries, Hong Kong Chinese Manufacturers Association and the Employers' Association of Hong Kong. But the associations had reservations about a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. Dr Cheung Yiu-sing, assistant director of the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, said education and persuasion were better ways than legislation to push fair employment. 'I don't think punitive measures will be more effective to change people's attitude,' said Mr Cheung. He added that discriminatory practices in employment were mostly unintentional and could be rectified easily by showing employers better ways to handle employment-related practices. The Legislative Council is scrutinising a Comprehensive Equal Opportunities Bill tabled by independent legislator Anna Wu Hung-yuk. The Government has also put forward two anti-discrimination proposals to outlaw unfair treatment on the grounds of gender and disability. The associations have not yet decided whether to support legislation. Mr Cheung also pointed out employers would soon realise that fair employment was beneficial to both employees and employers. 'For society as a whole, this will enable a better use of our human resources.' Accepting the guidelines were not binding on employers, Mr Cheung said there were other ways to encourage employers to accept them. That could include accrediting those implementing the guidelines as 'equal opportunity employers'. These employers could have an edge over the others in recruitment, he said. Responding to why the guidelines did not cover discrimination on the grounds of political affiliation and trade union membership, Mr Cheung said the list was not meant to be exhaustive and could be expanded in future. The guidelines will be given to all members of the associations, which intend to organise seminars about equal employment opportunities.