Research was carried out in 2013 on behalf of the Equality and Human Rights Commission into recruitment practices relating to collecting information on applicants’ health prior to a job offer being made.
Under Section 60 of the Equality Act 2010 (Equality Act), recruiters are prohibited from asking applicants about their health during the recruitment process to prevent them from sifting out candidates on the basis of health or disability. There are a few exceptions to this rule, however, that include:
- where it is necessary to find out whether the applicant can carry out duties that are intrinsic to the job (i.e. does a person applying for a job as a scaffolder decorator have a health condition that would prevent him/her climbing a ladder?);
- where an organisation is seeking to create greater diversity in its workforce and wants to recruit people from groups that are under-represented (e.g. disabled people).
Some interesting results from this research conclude that:
- despite the stipulations of Section 60 of the Equality Act, at least 30 per cent of applicants (whether or not they have an impairment, i.e. suffer from any physical or mental health conditions that reduce their ability to carry out day-to-day activities) were asked whether they had a disability or health condition at some point in the recruitment process;
- one third say they were asked to fill out a health questionnaire/form before receiving an offer of employment;
- almost two thirds of SME employers state that they collect health information prior to making a job offer, most commonly to ascertain any adjustments that might be necessary for the candidate to participate fully in the workplace.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s ‘Guidance for employers on Section 60 of the Equality Act 2010’ provides useful guidance for employers, including a collection of scenarios with judgements of whether or not the recruiter’s actions complied with the stipulations of the Equality Act.
Employers looking for advice on employee health issues, or on complying with their legislative requirements in terms of employee health, can contact the Fit for Work website where there are free work-related health resources for GPs, employers and employees including an advice hub, live instant chat, and opportunities to ask questions.