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Equality Act - Changes in recruitment QandA

1 October 2010

Equality Act - Changes in recruitment Q&A

The new Equality Act, which came into force on the 1st of October 2010, introduces an important change to the way we do recruitment at Queen Mary.

From the 1st of October 2010:
We cannot lawfully ask about the health of applicants before we make a job offer (with a few exceptions which are described below). This new provision means that we have changed our application forms; and it will affect the way we short-list and the interview questions we ask.

• The revised application forms are available on the HR job site and HR forms site
• The Occupational Health Service will screen the sickness record of applicants who have received job offers and will give feedback to recruiting managers.

Please note that we are still allowed to ask health questions for the following reasons:

• Establishing whether the applicant will be able to carry out a function that is intrinsic to the work (e.g. if the job involves driving, there may be a requirement to have a particular level of eyesight)
• Providing reasonable adjustments to ensure that a disabled applicant can participate in interviews and other forms of assessment
• Monitoring diversity

Some FAQs about these changes:

We are recruiting for a post that involves lifting heavy boxes, can we ask questions about this requirement at the job interview?

Yes, we are allowed to ask about health at interview if it is to establish whether the applicant will be able to carry out a function that is intrinsic to the work concerned, i.e. lifting boxes for a porter role for example.Make sure that the requirement is clearly stated in the job profile. 
However, if you recruit for a role which might involve some lifting on occasional basis you cannot ask about health, as it is not an intrinsic function.

Have all the forms been updated?

Yes, all the recruitment forms have been updated; you can find them on the HR recruitment website from the 1st of October.

What should we do with old paper copies of blue, pink, and purple forms?

You should destroy them, they are now unlawful.

My department is using the online recruitment (IGRASP) system. How does this affect us?

The online recruitment system does not ask about an applicant sickness record and is therefore compliant.

Can I still ask about attendance history at interview as we have to cover absent staff with temps?

It is unlawful for recruitment panels to ask about the health of the applicant before they make a conditional job offer, unless one of the exceptions described above applies.

If I can’t ask about health at interview, how can I avoid hiring staff who have poor attendance records?

After a job offer has made, the applicant will be asked to declare their absence record to the Occupational Health Service. They will send you the attendance record. If you have concerns, take HR advice about whether to withdraw the job offer.

What do I do with references that discuss sickness?

It is generally good practice to consider your own systematic assessment of the candidates’ relative merits and to come to a decision based upon that. References are useful as a confirmation of your decision. If you request references for consideration prior to interview, you should not request information relating to sickness absence or attendance.
If however a referee volunteers that information, best practice would be to ignore it. Rely instead on the declaration made by the appointed candidate to the Occupational Health Service.

What if a candidate tells me about a disability that might impact on their health as part of a reasonable adjustment to the interview process?

Do not take account of the health issues in a making a recruitment decision.  Keep good and detailed notes to show fair and lawful reasons for selection.  
It is a legal requirement to offer reasonable adjustments to disabled applicant at all stages of the recruitment process.
This includes providing the application form in different format, if requested; providing extra time during tests for a dyslexic person; making sure the interview room is accessible to persons with mobility or sensory impairments; etc.  
Please contact Bertille Calinaud, if you have any questions regarding reasonable adjustment.

Can Queen Mary still ask questions about disability on the Equal Opportunities form.

The Equal Opportunities form is attached to the application form for monitoring purposes, it is detached from the application form and is not seen by the recruiting panel. Thus there is no problem about asking about disability on the form.

If you have any questions contact Bertille Calinaud, , 020 788 5585 or your HRA.



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