Law guide: Employment

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Application forms

Application forms

Staff application forms

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 all applicable laws, in particular the UK General Data Protection Regulation and the Equality Act 2010. For more information on your obligations see our section on Data protection.

Acceptable questions

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:

  • Title
  • Surname
  • Forenames
  • Home address
  • Home telephone number
  • Mobile number
  • Whether or not they require a work permit

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 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 age discrimination legislation, visit Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) (or the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) site, in Northern Ireland) where you will find guidance for both employers and employees. The BEIS website (or DETI website) will also have information on this topic.

Unacceptable questions

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:

  • Determine whether any reasonable adjustments need to be made for an applicant during a recruitment process
  • Determine whether an applicant can undertake a function that is vital ('intrinsic') to the job, such as enquiring about any mobility issues where the job entails handling heavy goods
  • Monitor diversity amongst the applicants, such as enquiring whether an applicant is disabled in order to establish whether advertisements are reaching disabled people
  • Take positive action to assist disabled people
  • Establish that the applicant has a disability where having a disability is an occupational requirement of the job

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.

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  • Job application form
    Compatible region(s): Scotland Northern Ireland England Wales

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