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5 key ways to ensure Equality Act compliant recruitment policies

Published on 14 Oct, 2015
Jean Fisher
Content Manager

Here at the Occupational Health Business Ltd we are often asked about recruitment and how to ensure applicants with health conditions are managed fairly under The Equality Act 2010.

Are you still sending out questionnaires asking for confidential health information and then making decisions on prospective employee’s fitness for work? If so, read on and consider making changes on how you manage this.

Here are 5 key points to ensure you stay compliant:-

  1. The Equality Act 2010 stipulates that questions regarding health cannot be asked until a job offer is made. We use the 4 question approach now recommended as best practice in employment law. The aim of the process is to establish if a member of staff requires reasonable adjustments in order to carry out their role, not to screen them out because they may have medical conditions.  It is not intended to ‘weed out’ people we think might have a high level of sickness absence.

All of us at some time in our lives will develop some kind of health issue requiring an adjustment and you can’t therefore screen everyone out.

  1. These are the 4 questions to use and they should only be asked once a job offer has been made.
  2. Do you have any health/medical problems or physical limitations which may affect your   ability to carry out this role? Yes/No
  3. Have you ever had any health/medical problems which may have been made worse by work? Yes/No
  4. Are you having or waiting for any investigations/tests or on any long term prescribed medication? Yes/No
  5. Do you need any special adjustments to allow you to undertake this role? Yes/No

*No medical information should be included on this questionnaire*

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  1. If an employee answers yes to any of the 4 questions they will need to complete a health questionnaire and this should be forwarded direct to an OH Adviser.

Medical information is confidential to OH. So, the health questionnaire and 4 questions should be sent to new starters at the same as the letter confirming employment. The 4 questions should come back to HR but the completed health questionnaire which is completed if there are yes responses to the 4 questions, should go direct to OH, not through Manager or HR.

  1. It is likely that the OH Adviser will then have to speak to the employee on the telephone to gain more information about their health status and the information if they have declared that they have a medical condition on the health questionnaire. Where reasonable adjustments are required, we may need to undertake a site visit to see where the employee will be working or undertake a face to face consultation.

Further enquiries about any declared medical conditions may need to be undertaken by for example writing to the GP, but this is rare. The OH Adviser will then issue a statement of fitness for role to the employer with information on any adjustments needed. It is then an employer’s decision whether the adjustments recommended are reasonable for the business to put in place.

  1. Where under HSE Regulation, health surveillance is needed (audiometry, HAVS, spirometry etc.) a baseline health assessment medical will still need to be carried out by the OH Adviser to ensure fitness for the role and to identify any adjustments needed or identify any pre-existing medical conditions which may affect safety at work or which may result in future claims.

Employees will then be entered into the appropriate health surveillance programme database for their role. A Fitness Statement will be issued containing relevant guidance.  Carrying out a baseline BEFORE someone starts to work for you in a role as an Operative, ensures that if they come to you with pre-existing conditions, such as asthma, this will be picked up.

Remember, if the reasonable adjustments mean that a substantial part of the role cannot be carried out (a driving job where it is advised no driving) then you may have grounds to withdraw job offer, but you will need OH advice specifically regarding this first.

Employers should not be worried about reasonable adjustments, as they will enable the new employee to be able to carry out the role you have employed them to do and are usually not that difficult or costly to implement. You can decide what reasonable adjustment your company can implement, but remember you need to think flexibly.


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