Even the smallest business should today use a job application form when it wishes to recruit staff. Job application forms allow an employer to frame questions to discover applicants' skills and competencies in a consistent format, which is essential in defending any cases where the employer is accused of discrimination or unfair treatment. It also allows the employer to ensure that any personal questions asked are compliant with the requirements of the Data Protection Act. You should ensure that you comply with your responsibilities under the Data Protection Act. For more information on your obligations with respect to the Data Protection Act, see the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategywebsite or the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment Statistics in Northern Ireland .
In the personal section of a job application form all the information sought should be uniform and relevant. It is accepted practice to require all applicants to supply:
It is also acceptable to ask what reasonable adjustments are required for the candidate if they suffer from a disability or medical condition so that appropriate steps can be taken to assist the candidate at an interview.
Provided such questions are asked of both men and women, and the standards set in assessing replies are related to job requirements and not to assumptions about sex differences, they will do no harm and are a legitimate part of the selection process.
Due to age discrimination legislation, an employer is now not recommended to ask a candidate any questions relating to their age such as their date of birth or details of when they obtained any qualifications. For more clarification on the issues surrounding the new age discrimination legislation, visit Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service(or the Labour Relations Agency , in Northern Ireland) where you will find guidance for both employers and employees. The (or ) will also have information on this topic.
It is not acceptable to ask a question which could be directly or indirectly discriminatory. This includes questions such as 'Are you heterosexual?' or 'Are you a Muslim?'. Sometimes a job will require an applicant of a particular sex, ethnic or national origin, age, religion/belief or sexual orientation. As long as this is a genuine requirement or qualification for the job then it will not be unlawful to discriminate against certain sectors of society.
Please note that if you are considering employing new staff which would result in discriminating against certain sectors of society based on a genuine requirement or qualification for the job then you should take great care.
In England, Wales and Scotland, the Equality Act 2010 outlaws asking questions relating to health or disability and the use of health questionnaires before a job offer is made, unless it is being used in order to:
The Equality Act permits employers to make any offer of employment conditional upon receiving a satisfactory medical report/health questionnaire. Questions asking the applicant to disclose details of past health may not be acceptable under the Equality Act.
See the guidance provided by the(opens a pdf).