Interview candidates waiting for their slot

Know Your Rights: The Interviewer Asked About My Sickness Record…

It sometimes seems natural for an interviewer to ask about sickness. We might have asked for something at interview, mentioned a disability or have gaps in our CV. But no matter what, all the interviewer is allowed to ask is if anything would affect your ability to do the job.

They are not allowed to ask how many days off we had in our last job – that would be unlawful. If the employer does ask about absence, we could answer by telling them we are now able to manage whatever the issue was. We can reassure them we will be a reliable worker. 

If we haven’t told them about a disability, an employer shouldn’t ask questions about our health until after they have offered you the job. Once we have a job offer, some employers ask new recruits to answer a medical questionnaire or have a medical examination.

But any questions should only be aimed at finding out if we can do the job. If offered a job which involves lifting, it would be okay for them to ask if there are limits on how much lifting we can do but not how we got the disability.

If there are limits to what we can do, that shouldn’t mean we lose the job. To comply with the Equality Act, the law brought in to prevent discrimination, the employer should check whether there are “reasonable adjustments” they can make so that we can do the work. For example, for people who cannot stand for long hours, it might be a reasonable adjustment in a shop to put a chair behind the counter.

For something to be a reasonable adjustment, it must definitely help us to do the job and the employer must be able to afford to do it. This means that what is reasonable will depend on the employer. If a small business has an office on the 4th floor of a shared building, it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect them to put a lift in for a wheelchair user, but it might be reasonable for a small business with steps up to their door to get a ramp.