18/10/10

By Claire West

The new equality act places additional burdens and responsibilities on employers. One example is that of asking questions about health at an interview. Contrary to reports in much of the media, investigation by UK Business Advisors (UKBA) has shown that asking health questions at interviews is permitted in some situations.

It is permitted to establish whether the applicant will be able to "carry out a function that is intrinsic to the work concerned".

Examples of permitted questioning include:

•asking whether there is any condition which
restricts an applicants' ability to work in a call centre
- deaf applicants may not be able to "carry out a
function intrinsic to the work".

•asking whether an applicant for a warehouse job has
any condition which prevents or restricts them from
lifting heavy items.

In order to minimise risks to the employer, UK Business Advisors (UKBA) recommends taking expert advice before commencing the employment process; to analyse the job requirements, and advise on the recruitment processes.

Stephen Cowburn, a Human Resources specialist within UKBA advises, "Think carefully about whether the job does impose specific health restrictions. Then check your recruitment procedures such as application forms, medical questionnaires and interviewing processes to ensure they are really needed and conform to legislation".