Interviews – What you need to ensure when asking questions about health or disability

In general, you must not ask a job applicant questions relating to health or disability. So don’t ask on the application form or ask someone to say anything in a covering letter with a CV or in a letter of application or on a separate questionnaire (unless this is a monitoring form) about their health or disability.

Photograph of job application form
Photo: Dodgerton Skillhause
  • Instead, ask whether someone has the relevant skills, qualities and experience to do the job, not about their health or about any disability they may have.
  • One exception to this rule is that you can ask a question to find out if a disabled person needs a reasonable adjustment during the recruitment process itself.

Reasonable adjustment

  • Don’t ask for this information on an application form. Ask applicants to tell you this on a separate document or using a covering letter that does not contain any information relevant to deciding whether to take their application further.
  • Keep this information separate from the rest of the information an applicant gives you about themselves, whether this is on an application form or not. This will make sure that the information is not used to discriminate unlawfully against them, and that you will be able to show that it hasn’t.
  • The easiest way to make sure the information about reasonable adjustments is not used in the wrong way – to exclude a disabled person from the application process – is to make sure the person or people deciding which applicants to take through to the next stage of the process don’t see the information about reasonable adjustments before making their decision.
  • If you are making this decision by yourself (for example, if your organisation is very small), then you must be careful not to let your knowledge of the fact an applicant needs reasonable adjustments influence your decision whether to take them through to the next stage.
  • You only have to make adjustments if you know, or could be reasonably expected to know, that a disabled person has applied or may apply for the job. But you must do all that can reasonably be expected to find out whether this is the case and what, if any, adjustments an applicant requires.

Example: inviting job applicants to an interview

When inviting job applicants for interview, an employer asks applicants to say if they have any disability-related requirements for interview and states that the employer will make reasonable adjustments. This is the right approach, so long as the employer does not then use any information the applicants give to discriminate against them.

  • Don’t ask in a way that might be intrusive or that violates the disabled person’s privacy or dignity.
  • Do not ask anything that is not about making reasonable adjustments to the application process, unless one of the exceptions listed at pages 14–18 applies.
  • Do not use what the person says about reasonable adjustments to make any other decisions that are part of the application process.

Example: asking a specific question

An employer asks a specific question when they invite job applicants for interview: ‘Do you require any adjustments because of a disability?’ and offers to answer any questions applicants have about the interview process to help them work out if they need to ask the employer for anything. The employer is also clear whether or not the interview will take place in a building with level access (i.e. if there are stairs, there are ramps or a lift) and if a hearing loop is available. This is the right sort of approach.

  • However, applicants do not have to respond to this request and, unless you could otherwise reasonably be expected to know that a job applicant is a disabled person, you will not be under a duty to make adjustments.
  • However, if an applicant discloses at a later stage that they are a disabled person, or you could reasonably be expected to know that they are, you must then consider whether they need reasonable adjustments.
  • Remember, the required knowledge is of the facts of the applicant’s disability but an employer does not also need to realise that those particular facts are likely to meet the legal definition of disability.