Guide

Pre-employment checks

Pre-employment checks: health checks

You may wish to include health checks as part of your recruitment process. A health questionnaire may ask about individual and family history and lifestyle. They can highlight potential problems requiring a follow up - eg by a medical examination.

Questions about disability and health during the recruitment process

You should take great care when asking about a job applicant's disability or health concerns. You should ensure that you seek this information for the right reasons and not in order to discriminate against disabled people.

The Equality Commission suggests giving job applicants the opportunity on an application form, or on a monitoring form, to indicate any relevant effects of a disability and to suggest any reasonable adjustments which may help them overcome any disadvantage in their potential workplace.

You have an obligation, under the Disability Discrimination Act, to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees or applicants at all stages of the recruitment, selection and employment process.

Read Equality Commission guidance on recruitment.

Asking a question about disability is not in itself discriminatory. However, your conduct following the candidate's response could lead an industrial tribunal to conclude that you have carried out a discriminatory act.

When to carry out pre-employment health checks

You should only complete pre-employment health checks:

  • once you have offered the job to a particular person
  • where any candidate - disabled or not - would be required to undergo testing to decide if they are fit to carry out the job
  • where testing is needed to meet any legal requirement - eg eye tests for commercial vehicle drivers
  • when you are sure you need this information and have policies in place to securely hold the information as required by the Data Protection Act, regardless of whether it is in paper or electronic form

The level of assessment will depend on the nature of the job and can range from simply checking the levels of absence in a previous job to a full health assessment.

If you are making a job offer conditional upon the candidate's fitness for the work, this should be stated clearly in the offer letter.

You must ensure you are not carrying out discriminatory practices in asking potential employees to pass a health check. Health checks - if required - should be carried out on all candidates to avoid unfairly discriminating against disabled candidates. For further guidance, see how to prevent discrimination and value diversity.

You may be required to pay a fee for a medical report from a candidate's GP. The candidate must give you their written consent before you request a medical report.

Candidates have the right to see the report and can request that it is amended or withheld from you. Even without the applicant seeing the report, the doctor must keep it for 21 days before sending it to the employer.

Alternatively, an employer may refer a prospective employee to occupational health. The employer must seek the employee’s consent before referral and the employer should pay for the referral.

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