Questions an employer should NOT ask at an interview

Peninsula Team

June 29 2012

In every job interview the goal is to obtain important information while building a friendly rapport with the candidate. But some questions can be too friendly. It is important to avoid discrimination during the recruitment process. This not only is a legal requirement, but also gives you the best chance of getting the right person for the job.

You need to remember that job applicants - i.e. people you don't actually employ - might be able to make an employment tribunal claim against you if they believe you didn't select them for a job because you discriminated against them unlawfully. There are clear no go areas for employers as they may contravene discrimination laws, questions to be avoided include:

How old are you?

Apart from establishing that a person meets the required minimum age to do the job, you should not be asking any questions about age in a job interview. A prime example of what not to say to an applicant would be to ask of, say, a 60-year old, “And how many more years do you see yourself in the workforce?” as this would be discriminatory. 

Are you married? What are your childcare arrangements? Are you planning to start a family soon?

Interviewers should not make any reference to a person’s marital status, children they may have or their sexual preference. All could be grounds for discrimination as companies might be deemed to view a person being married as either favourably in that they may see an applicant as being more stable or, perhaps, unfavourably in that they may see a conflict of interest between a single person having more time to devote to the job over a married person who might have family commitments to juggle with. Likewise, questions about children should also be avoided. It also should go without saying that any questions about a person’s sexual preferences are absolutely 'off limits'.

Do you have a disability? 

Interviewers need to tread carefully here. Asking a candidate to explain a significant amount of time off sick from any previous jobs would be perfectly acceptable. However, questioning a person over a disability and whether or not that would affect their ability to do the job would not be and would be grounds for disability discrimination.

Are you a member of a trade union?

In asking candidates are they a member of a trade union it could lead to inferences that they were not selected because of their trade union 
association, which would be unlawful. 

What religion do you practice?

You may want to know about religious practices to find out about weekend work schedules, but it's imperative that you refrain from asking directly about a candidate's beliefs to avoid claims of religious discrimination. Instead you could ask if there are any limits to their availability. 

However don’t get overly anxious about the risks of claims from applicants. When going through a recruitment process contact the advice line on ways to get the information you require but limit the risk of a claim.

For any further information please call our 24 hour advice service on 0844 892 2786.

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