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What shouldn't I ask a job applicant at an interview?

View profile for Gillian Markland
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What shouldnt I ask a job applicant at an interview?

Recently a woman has been awarded £4,250 from a Domino’s Pizza store owner in an age discrimination dispute, after the prospective employer asked her how old she was during an interview.

Mrs Walsh applied for a delivery driver role with the large well-known pizza takeaway franchise. The first question at Mrs Walsh’s interview was about her age. When Mrs Walsh told the interviewer her age, she received the response of ‘we normally only consider 18–30-year-olds for this role’. Mrs Walsh did not get the job and believed that this was due to her age, based on the comments made at the time of her interview.  

When Mrs Walsh reached out to Dominos, they said they were unaware that it was inappropriate to ask someone their age in an interview. Mr Quirk, the owner of the Dominos store involved has since apologised and paid Mrs Walsh £4,250 in response to the dispute.

Practical Advice for employers

This case highlights the importance of employers knowing what limits should be placed on questions during the interview process. Whilst questions relating to age may be obviously off limits to most employers, other questions such as...

‘are you are planning on having a family soon?’

‘are you married?’

‘are you religious?’

...should not be asked during any interview with a job applicant. Only questions relating to an employee’s ability to do the role applied for should be asked.

Any questions relating to age, sex, marital status, pregnancy, disability, sexual orientation, race or religion should be completely avoided. This is because they are protected characteristics, which means those individuals who hold one or more of the protected characteristics provided for in the Equality Act 2010 may be afforded protection from discrimination.

Employers should also be aware, that discrimination laws apply not only to employees but also to job applicants and ex-employees, as seen in Mrs Walsh’s case. Therefore, just because they are not an employee it does not mean that you cannot discriminate against them in any pre- or post-employment exercise.

Can I ask about a job candidates health as it may affect their ability to carry out the role?

Once a position has been offered, you can make enquiries into the employees’ health, but only if these relate to the employee’s ability to carry out the role effectively, or in order to make reasonable adjustments to their role/ recruitment process.

Employers should avoid asking questions relating to attendance records/ sickness absence as it is indirectly asking an employee about their health and could be found to be discriminatory if they were then treated less favourably as a result of the answers they have given

If employers are unsure about what they can ask about in an interview, then please get in contact and a member of our experienced Employment Law Team will be happy to assist.

Our articles are intended for general information purposes only and are not a substitute for professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. We are always very happy to discuss any plans, issues or concerns you may have and to clarify how we might be able to help. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.