Some things on this list are outright illegal and you should never ask them. Some of them aren’t illegal, but are still completely irrelevant to the person’s ability to do the job. As well as being ethically questionable, these kinds of questions will make you very unpopular and will throw into question the inclusivity of your company culture. Candidates will not hesitate to report anything they recognise as discriminatory questioning online, so not only is the below bad practice, it will negatively impact your employer brand.

The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals from discrimination in the workplace, as well as in a wide range of other instances such as renting a house and using public services.

Protected Characteristics

In the UK, it is illegal to ask any questions around what the statute book defines as ‘Protected Characteristics’, these include:

  • age
  • being or becoming a transsexual person
  • being married or in a civil partnership
  • being pregnant or on maternity leave, or planning to have children
  • disability
  • race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
  • religion, belief or lack of religion/belief
  • sex
  • sexual orientation

Health and Disability

It is only permissible to ask about disability if:

  • there are necessary requirements of the job that can’t be met with reasonable adjustments
  • you’re finding out if someone needs help to take part in a selection test or interview
  • you’re using ‘positive action’ to recruit a disabled person

Age Discrimination

You are only permitted to ask for a candidate’s date of birth if it is required by the duties of the job. A good example is selling alcohol.

Spent Criminal Convictions

For the majority of employers, spent criminal convictions must be treated as if they never happened. Candidates do not have to tell you about them, and they are not valid grounds for rejecting a candidate. There are some exemptions to this rule, such as schools.

Trade Union Membership

It’s illegal to discriminate against someone on ground of their trade union membership. You cannot refuse to employ someone because they’re a member of a trade union, and you cannot insist that someone joins one before employment.

Positive Discrimination

When deciding between two suitable candidates, it is permissible to choose a candidate with a protected characteristic over one that doesn’t, if you think people with that characteristic are:

  • are underrepresented in the workforce, profession or industry
  • suffer a disadvantage connected to that characteristic (eg people from a certain ethnic group are not often given jobs in your sector)

However, you can’t choose a candidate who isn’t as suitable for the job just because they have a protected characteristic.

When a disabled person and a non-disabled person both meet the job requirements, you can treat the disabled person more favourably.

Equality Forms

You can ask about:

  • Date of birth
  • Sexuality
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity

You can ask these questions on equality monitoring forms, but under no circumstances should you allow the individuals selecting or interviewing candidates to see this.

The best way to make sure that you don’t ask any of the above questions is to go into interviews with all your questions already decided and written down. This is good practice anyway, as it leads to a more structured interview.