By Eve Clennell
When I was interviewing job applicants for a position in my company recently, one of the interviewees told me that they had a mental illness. They didn’t elaborate any further and I did not want to ask questions for fear of either offending them or breaking the law. Is there a procedure that I should follow?
In future make sure that you conduct the recruitment process on set competencies and other recruitment tools in choosing the best candidate for the role. If by following this process the findings are that the mentally disabled person is the best candidate, then he/she should be offered the role. You can make the job offer subject to a medical to assess whether their disability would prevent them from carrying out their position, and if any reasonable adjustments need to be put in place. However, this form of selection after initial assessment is not without risk of a discrimination claim. The best way to protect your company is for ALL applicants who are offered positions to complete pre-employment medical questionnaires. This blanket approach is evidence that no discrimination has taken place. A pre-employment medical questionnaire should be viewed as a way of screening candidates in - not screening them out.
They also identify any:
- Risks to prospective employees, colleagues or clients
- Support needed by the prospective employee to do the job effectively
- Disability issues, such as potential reasonable adjustments
- Potential attendance problems
It’s best practice for applicants to send completed questionnaires to an Occupational Health Specialist -not your Company. An OHS is qualified to assess whether someone is fit to do the job role. They provide a report based on the answers to the questionnaire and detailed information on the requirements of the job, including the type of tasks that the individual will be expected to undertake. This clearly states whether someone is fit or not to undertake the role in question, and if any reasonable adjustments need to be implemented.
If a questionnaire does reveal a condition that requires ‘reasonable adjustments’ to be made, then government funding can often be provided through Access to Work. In many circumstances, the adjustments cost you very little or even nothing and they are simple to implement. You can only treat a disabled person less favourably if you have a sufficiently justifiable reason for doing so, and only if the problem cannot be overcome by making 'reasonable adjustments'. If a discrimination claim is successful, the fines at tribunal are uncapped, so it is important that you get it right (from a moral and financial perspective)
This is a specialist field that I have extensive experience in. If you would like further practical advice and hands on help in implementing these requirements, please do not hesitate to contact me.
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