October 2010 saw the introduction of the Equality Act 2010. This replaced various pieces of employment legislation including the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Disability is one of nine potential “protected characteristics” for which a person cannot be treated less favourably than other people. Although mainly a consolidation of previous rights into a single Act, there are some new implications for employers. In terms of health and safety, the principal change is to outlaw pre-employment medical questionnaires in most circumstances.
Targeted questions are still permitted in limited situations, i.e. where it is relevant and necessary for the job. An example would be to establish whether an applicant for a role involving heavy lifting had a history of back injuries.
Note general enquiries including those concerning attendance records are not acceptable. This is because absence may be related to disability and to select the person with the best attendance may discriminate against a disabled applicant.