Disability discrimination: Action pledged on recruitment checks

The government has promised to address concerns that employers are discriminating against disabled job applicants who disclose impairments through recruitment questionnaires.

In a debate on the Equality Bill yesterday, solicitor general Vera Baird promised to bring forward an amendment at the next stage of the bill to tackle the issue.

MPs had earlier debated an amendment brought by Labour MP David Drew, which would have prohibited employers from asking job applicants whether they are disabled or about the nature or severity of any disability, unless:-

  • It was to determine whether the job applicant required reasonable adjustments for the interview process.
  • It was to monitor the number of disabled applicants so long as the inquiry was separate from the application form and was anonymised.
  • It was to promote positive action in recruitment, for instance schemes where disabled people are guaranteed interviews.
  • It was necessary to determine whether the applicant can perform a specific employment-related function.

Limited requirement to disclose

Under Drew’s amendment, disabled people would not be required to disclose their disability under the first three circumstances, though they would have to do so in relation to employment-specific functions.

The amendment was backed by a number of charities, who have been lobbying for restrictions on the use of pre-employment inquiries about disability, including mental health charity Rethink.

A survey by the charity found that 41% of mental health service users were put off applying for jobs because they feared being discriminated against.

Call to follow America

A briefing for MPs issued by Rethink called for the government to follow America, where pre-employment questionnaires are only allowed if they relate to the ability of an applicant to perform job-related functions, saying this would be particularly helpful for people with mental health problems.

Responding to the concerns, Baird said: “An important duty that we all have is to try and accelerate the rate at which disabled people who want to work and who can work come into employment. Therefore we must attend to this topic.”

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