A new amendment to the Equality Bill will restrict employers’ use of pre-employment questionnaires about health or disability during the recruitment process.
The Bill was steered through the House of Commons earlier this week, and will now go to the Lords for further scrutiny. However, a new clause has been introduced which aims to strengthen protection for disabled people against discrimination.
The clause addresses concerns raised by disability organisations that, because there is no restriction under the Disability Discrimination Act, there is ‘fairly widespread’ use of such enquiries by employers to discriminate against people who declared a disability by not selecting them for interview or other selection stages.
The amendment means that an employer will be deterred from asking candidates questions about their health until after they have shown they meet some of the non-health criteria of a job. If an employer asks a question before this stage, it may be found to have directly discriminated against a disabled candidate.
However, the Bill gives specific instances where the employer can make health and disability-related enquiries before shortlisting a candidate after an interview. These are for the purposes of:
* making reasonable adjustments to enable the disabled person to participate in the recruitment process;
* monitoring diversity in applications for jobs
* supporting positive action in employment for disabled people
* enabling an employer to identify suitable candidates for a job where there is a genuine occupational requirement for the person to be disabled
* national security vetting.
If an applicant is rejected after an employer makes an enquiry that is not permitted, the burden of proof at an Employment Tribunal will shift to the employer.
The Bill also contains a power to require reporting on the gender pay gap by employers with 250 or more employees. This power will only be used if sufficient progress on reporting has not been made by 2013.
A new ‘Easy Read’ version of the Equality Bill has been published to help improve understanding of the concepts involved in the Bill for wider audiences.