Our Helpline & Information Officer, Stuart Macgee provides information on the Equality Act and how it helps people with epilepsy have a fairer and better chance to be interviewed and offered a job.
Many of our calls to our helpline come from employees who have experienced difficulties within a job or when job hunting.
This is why it is useful to know your rights and when something may be potential unlawful discrimination. It will allow you to challenge or know when to seek further advice.
For example, an employer is no longer allowed to ask questions about a job’s applicant’s health, including previous sickness absence until:
- they have been offered a job, or
- the job applicant has been included in a pool of successful candidates that will be offered a job when a suitable position arises.
There are however some exemptions to this. An employer, for an example, would be allowed to ask these questions if they need:
- to find out whether a job applicant would be able to take part in an assessment / interview to test whether they are suitable for the work
- to make reasonable adjustments to allow the person with a disability to take part in the application and interview process
- to find out whether a job applicant would be able to undertake a function that is key to the job, with reasonable adjustments in place as required.
A full list of exemptions can be found on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s website at www.equalityhumanrights.com.
What could this mean for people living with epilepsy
If you have epilepsy this may now give you a fairer and better chance to be interviewed and offered a job.
Before the Equality Act came into force, an employer could ask you questions about health and sickness absence.
This often forced a job seeker to disclose their epilepsy on an application form or during an interview.
A prospective employer may have taken this into account when deciding whether to offer you the job.
Now (with some exemptions listed above) a prospective employer will not find out about your epilepsy during the recruitment process.
This means you stand a better chance to be assessed on your skills and experience only, and not your epilepsy.
However, you may still have to disclose your epilepsy to a prospective employer if there is a health and safety risk to you or others.
For example, having frequent and uncontrolled seizures would make you unsuitable to work at heights on a construction site.
An employer can’t use your epilepsy as a reason not to employ you though. They should be looking at making ‘reasonable adjustments’ to help you carry out your duties effectively and safely.
For more information, on the Equality Act please read our factsheet by clicking here. Or if you have any questions, please call our freephone helpline on 0808 800 2200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.