As every employer knows, asking questions regarding an applicant’s health or disability before making an offer of employment is unlawful (broadly speaking). But is it acceptable to ask a job applicant questions about their health in certain circumstances?
As a general principle, questions of this nature should only be asked after the applicant has been offered the position – but there are some exceptions, for example:
- Assessments – where an assessment is part of the application process, the employer has to make sure that the applicant can take part, or enquire if they wish to have any reasonable adjustments provided to allow them to participate.
- In-role adjustments – an employer may ask about a disability in order to discuss whether reasonable adjustments are needed to enable them to perform the job, whether you can implement them, or if you need to suggest alternatives.
- Specific tasks – rather than assuming that an applicant is unable to perform specific tasks that are intrinsic to the role, it is acceptable to ask them questions regarding their health in order to ascertain this. For example, if the job involves lifting heavy objects or climbing ladders.
Lara Murray, a solicitor specialising in employment law and litigation with Palmers explains: “The Equality Act 2010 provides protection for workers who are defined as disabled by, for example, requiring the employer to consider if there are any reasonable adjustments that could be made in order to ensure that none of the features of the job or workplace put them at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled workers.
“The need to make reasonable adjustments must not be a reason to deny promotion to a worker who would be most suitable for the role, or the reason behind their dismissal.
“If a worker is dismissed solely because of their disability, or if they are not offered a job for that same reason, then they can bring a disability discrimination claim in the employment tribunal against your business (and/or the individual whom they believe discriminated against them).
“If a disabled candidate isn’t offered the job, it should be because of non-discriminatory reason, such as their performance at the interview or their experience, rather than because of their disability.
For further information on employment advice and support available from Palmers, please contact us.