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Asking about health at interview stage

Posted by HR & Employment Team

We get this question a lot at Supportis… can I ask about an applicant’s health at pre-employment stage?

Only in EXCEPTIONAL circumstances can you ask about an applicant’s health at pre-employment stage such as:

👉 to find out whether a job applicant will be able to carry out an intrinsic part of the job
👉 to find out if a job applicant can take part in any assessment to test their ability to do the job or to find out if reasonable adjustments are needed to enable a disabled job applicant to take part in any assessment
👉 to monitor the diversity of people applying for the job
👉 where another legal requirement means an employer has to ask health- or disability-related questions. For example, Merchant Shipping Regulations prohibit the employment of seafarers unless they have a valid medical fitness certificate

Our key word is NECESSITY – is it absolutely necessary to ask? 💡

Our golden rule is the information relating to health and/disability should be collected separately from other information given in the application for the job ✅

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has recently found that a care agency asked unlawful pre-employment health questions on a job application form.

The National AIDS Trust reported that Elite Careplus Limited (ECL) was questioning applicants’ health during their recruitment process.

The EHRC reminded employers that the Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for employers to ask about an applicant’s health or disability before they have been offered the job, or before including them in a pool of successful candidates to be offered a role at a later date, except in specified situations.

It has provided this information about pre-employment health questions.

The EHRC Chief Executive said ‘Disabled people often face significant barriers to employment and are twice as likely to be unemployed. No one should be put off from applying for a job out of fear of being asked detailed and unnecessary questions about their health. Employers might think they’re doing the right thing when they ask these questions, but not only are they unlawful, they risk ruling out great potential employees.”’

ECL, which has now changed its practices, previously included a medical questionnaire asking applicants if they ever had a number of health conditions. These included, but were not limited to:

  • tuberculosis, asthma, bronchitis or chest complaints
  • depression, mental illness or nervous breakdown
  • dermatitis or skin trouble.

Potential recruits were also asked if there was:

  • any current/recent medication condition or treatment which might affect attendance or performance at work
  • any illness/medical condition that prevented you from attending work, normal duties or activities for more than one week during the past year

If you have any questions about HR or Employment law, please don’t hesitate to contact our friendly team today on 0161 603 2156 today to discuss how we can assist your business in staying legally compliant.

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