5 Illegal Interview Questions

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In a world where political correctness is everywhere, we are all being told what we should and shouldn’t say – especially in the workplace. We are often asked by clients for tips on what interview questions to ask, but it is just as important to remember what you’re NOT allowed to ask and what questions are, in fact, illegal.

Forgetting to abide by the rules often leads to causing offence, which in turn deters candidates and can also damage your employer brand. What’s worse is it can also potentially escalate into an equal opportunity employment lawsuit. To prevent such interview mishaps, check out these five interview questions that you shouldn’t be asking:

  1. ‘Are you married / pregnant?’

Recruiters are legally required not to consider that a woman is pregnant, or might become pregnant, when making a hiring decision. In the UK, the Equality Act 2010 states that unlawful pregnancy and maternity discrimination occurs when anyone who is pregnant, breastfeeding or recently giving birth is treated unfavourably.

  1. ‘Do you have any children? How old are they?’

Whilst this may seem like innocent rapport building, the question could indicate a more sinister motive. For example, an applicant may be favoured on the knowledge that they don’t have children and the employer won’t have to accommodate any flexible working needs.

  1. ‘Do you have any religious holidays to celebrate?’

Asking questions about potential holidays could constitute indirect discrimination, according to ACAS guidelines. For example, if an employer chooses not to employ someone who insists on having certain dates off for religious observance, when the time they want off is also the employer’s busiest time – in some cases, it could be argued that it is discriminatory.

  1. ‘Do you have any disabilities/what are they?’

This question can be tricky as it does depend on the role. Whilst job applications that ask things like “Do you have the ability to stand/squat/lift up to 30 lbs?” can be appropriate as they relate to the candidate’s ability to fulfil the exact physical requirements of the job. However, if you ask a candidate if their disability will prevent them from doing these jobs within the interview, it could give rise to discriminatory claims.

  1. ‘Where were your parents born?’

Whilst it’s often to specify whether the applicant can work in a certain country on the job application, this question serves no relevance to right to work. If the candidate is unsuccessful, they may believe that it was because of racial discrimination because you asked the question. General rule is that if the question isn’t relevant for the role or if you’re unsure, it’s best to err on the side of caution.

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