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Medical checks before offering a job

Employers aren’t generally allowed to ask you questions about your health or your disability when you apply for a job. This is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

Read this page to find out about health enquiries and medical checks when you apply for a job.

Asking questions about your health before offering you a job

If you apply for a job, employers aren’t generally allowed to ask you questions about your health or disability before they offer you the job, or before placing you in a pool of candidates it intends to offer a job to - for example, at the interview or in the application form. This is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

This includes questions about your previous sickness absence. Employers also can’t refer you to an occupational health adviser or ask you to fill in a questionnaire provided by an occupational health adviser.

If the employer asks questions about your health before offering you a job and they rely on this information when making a decision about the job, you may have a claim for unlawful disability discrimination.

When can an employer ask questions about your health before offering you a job

There are some situations when an employer is allowed to ask questions about your health or disability before offering you a job.

These situations include:

  • questions to monitor diversity in the range of people who apply to the employer for work - the monitoring form should be kept separate from your main application form
  • questions to establish if you’re able to benefit from positive action measures the employer has in place - for example, a guaranteed interview scheme
  • if the job you’re applying for requires someone with a particular disability where this is an occupational requirement of the job

In all these situations, the employer needs to make clear why they’re asking these questions and what will be done with the information.

Example

An employer wants to recruit a deaf project worker to work with deaf children. The employer is able to show it’s an occupational requirement for the job. It’s therefore lawful to ask you questions about your disability under the Equality Act.

Questions about reasonable adjustments for an interview

An employer is allowed to ask you if you need any reasonable adjustments for the interview process.

It’s also lawful to ask questions about your ability to take an assessment which is part of the recruitment process - for example, if you’re required to take a writing or numeracy test before your interview.

If you’re unable to take the test because of your disability, the employer will need to consider what reasonable adjustments they can make to the recruitment process. This may include allowing you not to take the test or modifying the test for you.

Questions about your ability to do a job

An employer isn't allowed to ask you questions about any reasonable adjustments you may need to do the job at the interview stage.

However, they can ask you questions about your ability to carry out a function which is essential or intrinsic to a job. If you have a disability which may impact on your ability to do the job, the employer should consider whether you can still do it if reasonable adjustments were made.

Example

You apply for a job as a scaffolder. The employer asks you whether you have any health conditions which may impact on your ability to climb ladders. The ability to climb ladders is essential to the job so the employer is allowed to ask you this question.

Conditional job offers

Often job offers are conditional on receiving satisfactory pre-employment checks, including medical checks and references. Employers are allowed to do this under the Equality Act.

The employer doesn’t offer you the job because of your disability

If the checks show you’re disabled, the employer should consider what reasonable adjustments may be necessary so you can do the job. If an employer doesn’t offer you the job because the checks reveal you have a disability, it may be unlawful disability discrimination.

Example

Your pre-employment medical checks show you have MS. The employer withdraws your job offer because of this. This is direct discrimination because of your disability. If you weren’t disabled you would have been employed.

Example

After a successful interview you’ve been offered a job as an office manager. The medical checks show you have arthritis in your left hand and so will need reasonable adjustments to be made. Your employer doesn’t want to make the adjustments and so withdraws your job offer.

You can take action against your employer for failure to make reasonable adjustments. This is also likely to be discrimination because of something connected to your disability.

Taking action

If an employer asks unlawful questions about your health before offering you a job, you can contact the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) about it. They may be able to take action against the employer.

If the employer discriminates against you - for example, by not making reasonable adjustments or by not offering you the job because you’re disabled, you can take action under the Equality Act. If necessary you can make a discrimination claim in the employment tribunal.

Next steps

Other useful information

Equality Advisory Support Service (EASS)

If you have experienced discrimination, you can get help from the EASS discrimination helpline.

Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)

You can find useful information about discrimination on the EHRC website at

Acas

Acas works with both employers and employees to solve workplace problems.

You can phone the Acas helpline on: 0300 123 1100 and speak to an adviser about your employment problems. The helpline is open 8am-8pm Monday to Friday and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

You can find useful information about how to sort out work-place problems on the Acas website at

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