Research published in the journal Occupational Health [at Work] has revealed that the Equality Act 2010 has had a significant impact on the practice of asking pre-employment health questions during the recruitment process.
Section 60 of the Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful for an employer to ask questions about a person’s health or disability prior to a conditional job offer being made, as some people risk being discriminated against and not being awarded jobs on merit if an array of health questions are asked before recruitment decisions are made. However, it is considered to be good practice to ask job applicants whether they need any adjustments for the recruitment process (e.g. altering the layout of the interview space, or allowing more time to complete interviews/tests), and it is lawful to ask questions about disabilities for equality monitoring purposes, so long as such information does not form part of the decision-making process.
A survey of 163 occupational health practitioners in public and private sector organisations has found that one in twelve employers (8%) still asks pre-employment health questions as part of the application form or at short-listing, compared to one in three (36%) when the same survey was carried out in 2006. The research has shown that many organisations are continuing to use health questions during the recruitment process but that these are now completed either when a conditional offer has been made (‘subject to a satisfactory health screening or medical’) or before the successful job applicant has started work.
For more information on the Equality Act 2010, see our blog (The Equality Act 2010 – what employers need to know) or look at the resources on the Health for Work Adviceline website.