Law guide: Workplace

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Job applications and interviews

Job applications and interviews

Questions

Throughout the recruitment process, employers have to make sure that any personal questions they ask you are compliant with all applicable laws, in particular the UK General Data Protection Regulation and the Equality Act 2010.

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 your full name and contact details (including address), and whether or not you have the right to work in the UK. It is also acceptable to ask what reasonable adjustments are required for you if you suffer from a disability or medical condition, so that they can take appropriate steps to help you at an interview.

Questions like these are acceptable, provided the employer asks everyone to answer them and doesn't make assumptions.

Although they can ask you questions relating to your age (e.g. your date of birth or details of when you gained qualifications), they shouldn't do so without a good reason. This is because such questions could potentially breach age discrimination legislation. For more on this, visit the Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), or the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) in Northern Ireland), where you will find guidance for both employers and employees.

Unacceptable questions

Employers must not ask anything that could be seen as discriminating against you on grounds of sex, gender reassignment, race, colour, ethnic background, marital status, disability, trade union membership and/or activity, age, religion/belief (England, Wales and Scotland) or religious belief or political opinion (Northern Ireland) or sexual orientation.

So, questions such as 'Are you heterosexual?' or 'Are you a Muslim?' are not generally acceptable. Similarly, you shouldn't be asked if you plan to have children soon.

Sometimes a job will require an applicant of a particular sex, race, 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.

In England, Wales and Scotland, the Equality Act 2010 outlaws asking questions relating to health or disability, unless doing so to:

  • Determine whether any reasonable adjustments need to be made for you during a recruitment process
  • Determine whether you can undertake a function that is vital to the job, e.g. enquiring about any mobility issues where the job entails handling heavy goods
  • Monitor diversity amongst the applicants, such as asking if you're disabled in order to establish whether advertisements are reaching disabled people
  • Take positive action to help disabled people
  • Establish that you have a disability if this is an occupational requirement of the job

Questions asking you to disclose details of past health may not be acceptable under the Equality Act. However, employers are allowed to make any offer of employment conditional on receiving a satisfactory medical report/health questionnaire.

See the guidance provided by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (PDF) for further information, which applies to England, Wales and Scotland. In Northern Ireland, see the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland website.

Your right to recruitment information

The employer should securely keep all the correspondence that you had with them during the process, including any interview notes.

You can ask to see the interview notes and other personal data if these form part of a set of information that has been filed together with the application form and other recruitment documents.

Employers will often keep this information for up to 6 months, but you should ask for it as soon as possible if you want to see it.

All personal information the employer collects on you during the recruitment process is subject to the UK General Data Protection Regulation and the Data Protection Act 2018. Very briefly, that means they must only use it fairly, transparently, and only if certain legal justifications apply.

See our section on Data protection for more information.

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