22 February 2016
Can I Ask a Job Candidate About Their Religion?
There are certain questions that are not advisable to ask during the interview process but it can be a bit of a minefield. In a series of blogs we hope to answer your questions and give you some sensible and realistic alternatives.
You should not ask any questions related to a person’s religion, whether you think it is obvious or not. Just because someone looks a particular way does not mean that you can ask them about it.
If you ask about someone’s religious views or affiliations it could be deemed as potential discrimination i.e. it may be alleged that you have taken a decision related to the suitability of that candidate for the role based upon their religion. You have to interview someone based on the merits of their expertise for the job, and what a person’s religion is should be irrelevant.
A candidate may have an unusual name, or one that hints at their background, but you should not ask about the background of the name, or where it comes from, as this may open your business up to claims of discrimination.
It is permitted to make enquiries about religion on anonymous equal opportunity monitoring forms but these must not be used as part of the hiring process.
Certain religions may have limitations as to working certain hours, but you should not ask about someone’s religion to find out. You can ask if the working hours for the specified job will suit the candidate. You may want to find out about potential scheduling conflicts but you can only ask them to confirm that they are able to work when you need them to.
Don’t ask: What country are you from and where were you born?
Do ask: Are you eligible to work in the UK?
Don’t ask: What is your native language?
Do ask: This job requires someone who speaks more than one language. What languages are you fluent in?
Don’t ask: What religions do you practice, and what holidays do you observe?
Do ask: Can you work the days/hours required for this role?
Don’t ask: Do you belong to a club or social organisation?
Do ask: Are you a member of any professional organisation or trade group that is relevant to our business?
If a prospective candidate believes that they didn’t get a job based on their religion, ethnicity, or background, they may have a case for racial discrimination. To avoid situations like this, make sure that every question you ask is carefully thought out before the interview starts. Informal interviews can often be dangerous as seemingly light hearted and friendly rapport can quickly stray into grey areas that are potentially discriminatory.
For other questions that can’t be asked please see our blog What Can I and Can’t I Ask During an Interview?
If you are worried about the legality of your interview process, or you are facing a legal challenge by a job applicant, then contact our expert team of employment lawyers at Slater and Gordon. Call us on freephone 0800 916 9060 or contact us online and we will call you.