Introduction to this document

Medical questionnaire

A problem for many employers is the risk of hiring a new employee only to find they have long-term health problems that could lead to periods of sickness absence. Use our questionnaire to find out if there’s a problem but only use it after a job offer has been made.

Medical questionnaire

This is a document which asks a series of questions about the current and previous health of potential employees. They are particularly useful for jobs where fitness to work is an issue, such as those roles which require manual handling. As well as identifying key aspects of an applicant’s medical history, you can also get a picture of any recent sickness absence. You can amend the questionnaire by deleting questions which aren’t relevant either to your organisation or to the position being assessed. This is important considering the need to comply with data protection requirements and to not ask for information which in some circumstances may be unnecessary. The Equality Act 2010 provides that you must not ask about an applicant’s health (including whether they have a disability) before offering them work, so always ensure you only use our Medical Questionnaire once a job offer has been made. There are some specific exceptions to this general ban, such as where you’re trying to establish whether you have a duty to make “reasonable adjustments” to the recruitment process for a disabled employee or whether the applicant will be able to carry out a function that is intrinsic to the work concerned, but you can’t ask general health questions such as are included on our Medical Questionnaire.

Disability discrimination

You must be very careful to avoid any allegations of disability discrimination if an applicant’s medical condition amounts to a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010. You can’t turn someone down for employment or withdraw a job offer on the ground of their disability - that is direct discrimination and can never be justified. You would need to consider what “reasonable adjustments” you could make to accommodate them in the workplace and the job role and to alleviate the disability’s effects. If you turn an applicant down, or withdraw their job offer, because of something arising in consequence of their disability (for example, the job duties are such that they will never be able to perform them), you will need to show that your treatment is objectively justified, i.e. it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Where a provision, criterion or practice, or a physical feature of your premises, puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with non-disabled persons, you must take such steps as is reasonable to avoid the disadvantage, such as reallocating particular duties to other employees. There is a section on the questionnaire where the applicant can provide more details about their health. You can justify this by including words to the effect that giving information will help you identify what, if any, reasonable adjustments can be made under the Equality Act 2010. It can be strengthened further by including wording which gives you the right to bring disciplinary proceedings against anyone who has deliberately withheld information (or to withdraw a job offer where employment has not yet started). Should a prospective employee ever query the purpose behind the questionnaire, you can say that it’s a device to help you manage health and safety and to comply with your legal obligations to disabled employees. In particular, it can help you identify whether any employee-specific risk assessment will be necessary.