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How the use of pre-employment health questionnaires has changed

According to research published by the At Work Partnership in the journal Occupational Health at Work, the Equality Act 2010 has had a significant impact on the practice of using pre-employment health questionnaires. A survey of around 160 occupational health professionals found that only 1 in 12 employers now asks health questions along with the application form. When the survey was last carried out in 2006 the figures were 1 in 3.

The research found that although most organisations continue to question applicants about their health, they now do so at a later stage in the recruitment process: either once a conditional offer has been made or before a successful applicant has started work. It also found that employers are no longer posing so many or such complex questions.

In terms of the Equality Act 2010, except in specified situations, an employer must not ask about a job applicant’s health until that person has been either offered a job (on a conditional or unconditional basis) or been included in a pool of successful candidates to be offered a job when a suitable position arises. The specified situations where health related enquiries can be made include:

  • finding out whether a job applicant would be able to participate in an assessment to test their suitability for the work;
  • making reasonable adjustments (e.g. extra time to complete a written test);  to enable the disabled person to participate in the recruitment process (93% of organisations ask job applicants if they need help or adjustments to attend the interview or selection process, and 61% include this question on the application form);
  • finding out whether a job applicant would be able to undertake a function that is intrinsic to the job, with reasonable adjustments in place as required;
  • monitoring diversity in applications for jobs (the survey found that two thirds of organisations ask about disabilities for monitoring purposes but only 1 in 5 allow this information to be given to those making recruitment decisions).

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