for better mental health

Discrimination at work

Explains what laws protect you from discrimination at work, what you can do if you are discriminated against, and where you can get support and advice.

Can I be asked about my mental health problem when I apply for a job?

Generally employers can't ask you questions about your mental health before a job offer is made.

Example

Benny has schizophrenia. He is applying for a job as a shop manager. The recruitment agent asks Benny if he has any history of mental illness.

The recruitment agent has acted unlawfully by asking Benny health questions in the recruitment process. Benny does not need to answer this question. But if he does choose to answer it, our advice would be that he should answer honestly.

  • If an employer asks you health questions before a job offer is made, you can report this to the Equality Advice and Support Service by filling out their form for reporting pre-employment health questions (the form is at the bottom of this page on their website). Read more about this on their Dealing with Discrimination page.
  • If you are asked questions about your health at the interview stage then don't get the job, you may want to challenge the discrimination. A court or tribunal will look very carefully at the employer's decision not to employ you. An employer must prove that the decision not to employ you was not linked to your disability.

When can an employer ask me about my health before a job offer?

There are some situations when an employer is allowed to ask you questions about your health before a job offer is made. For example to:

  • find out whether you will be able to take an assessment for the job
  • find out whether you need reasonable adjustments to the application process
  • find out whether you will be able to do tasks that are central to the job (though they should also consider the reasonable adjustments that you might need)
  • find out if they are receiving job applications from a diverse range of people
  • establish if you have the particular disability required for the job
  • assess you for national security purposes.

Examples of lawful questions before employment

  • An employer is recruiting and sends out an application form that says, "Please contact us if you are disabled and need any adjustments for the interview."
  • An employer is recruiting employees who have to erect scaffolding. In their application form they ask relevant questions about disability, health and whether the applicant has a fear of heights.

Example of unlawful question before employment

  • Sid applies for a job as an advice worker. During his interview, he is asked about his mental health history.

What questions can I be asked if I am offered the job?

If you are successful in your job application, then your prospective employer can ask you about your health. If, as a result of these questions, a prospective employer is concerned that your mental health problems may affect your ability to perform the job, they should seek more information or advice from your doctor or occupational health.

If your job offer is taken away when you explain your mental health status, and without further assessment or investigation, this may be direct discrimination.

This information was published in March 2018. We will revise it in 2021.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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