Conducting Interviews: The Importance of Employment Law Knowledge

This is a guest post from Peninsula UK, a leading professional services provider to small businesses across the UK.

Interviews are stressful for all parties involved.

The interviewer really wants to fill a position as quickly as possible and the interviewee’s nervous about the possibility of securing their next role.

The core focus during the interview stage is to evaluate the candidate’s skills, experience, and background. This is to find out if they’re the ideal candidate for the role and if they’re a good culture fit.

According to the Equality Act 2010, it’s illegal to discriminate against employees and job applicants because of a protected characteristic. So, avoiding discriminatory questions in an interview is a must.

This piece explores why interviewers need to be aware of employment law during the recruitment process.

Protected characteristics

The law protects individuals from being discriminated against because of any of the following characteristics. This protection extends to being at work, in education or even when using a public service.

·         Age

·         Gender reassignment

·         Being married or in a civil partnership

·         Being pregnant or on maternity leave

·         Disability race including colour

·         Nationality

·         Ethnic or national origin

·         Religion or belief

·         Sex

·         Sexual orientation

It’s worth noting, while it’s not unlawful to ask about an interviewee’s trade union membership (or lack of), you mustn’t use it as a factor when deciding to hire them. Also, when trying to decide between disabled and non-disabled persons that meet the job requirement, you can treat the disabled person more favourably.

Questions to avoid

You’re not allowed to ask candidates about any of the protected characteristics mentioned above. Also, you shouldn’t ask about their marital status (married, single, in a relationship, etc.) or about their plans for having children.

Other questions to avoid include:

·         What country are you from?

·         What country are your parents from?

·         Where were you born?

·         When did you graduate?

·         How old are you?

·         Where did you live while you were growing up?


·         Do you own your home?

·         Who do you live with?

·         Will you need personal time off for particular religious’ holidays?

·         How many sick days did you take last year?

·         Do you belong to any clubs or organisations?


Questions to ask instead

·         Are you eligible to work in the UK?

·         Can you show proof of your right to work in the UK?

·         How long have you been at your current address?

·         What days and shifts can you work?

·         Are you able to travel for work?

·         Are there any shifts that you cannot work?

·         Can you speak or write any other languages? (If it’s a job requirement)

·         How long were you at your previous role?

·         Do you own a car? (If it’s a job requirement)

Finally, it’s important to have a policy in place that addresses discrimination. An equal opportunities policy helps to prevent discrimination claims. It also encourages consistency in the way your employees (potential or current) are treated throughout the company.

It’s worth noting here, if you’re found to be in breach of the regulations surrounding the recruitment of new employees, you may be liable to face an employment tribunal. Also worth noting that some roles have a legal age requirement, so in those cases, it’s not unlawful to ask about a candidate’s age or to ask them to prove their age.


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