Today marks nine years since the Equality Act was passed yet social care providers across London have been found to be openly breaking rules it introduced, designed to prevent discrimination in employment. A report published today by NAT (National AIDS Trust) shows continued use of unlawful pre-employment health questions amongst these employers.
Generally, asking job applicants about their health and disabilities is unlawful under Section 60 of the Equality Act 2010. This prevents discrimination on the basis of health or disability. However, eight years on, NAT heard from a number of care workers encountering unlawful pre-employment questions.
NAT reviewed online job application forms of social care providers across the capital. We identified 71 social care providers in breach of Section 60. The number of unlawful health questions being asked, and the incidences of potential vetting, could be much higher as these providers were asking unlawful questions on application forms accessible on their websites.
NAT also collected case studies from people living with HIV who had experienced unlawful health questioning. At an interview one person was quizzed about her HIV, including how she acquired the virus, instead of being asked questions relevant to the role. When she challenged the questions, she was told the agency would need to inform the organisations they supply staff to of her HIV – an unnecessary breach of confidentiality. She was not offered the role.
People living with HIV are more likely to experience unemployment and poverty than the general population – currently 10% of people living with HIV are unemployed (compared to 3.7% amongst the general population without disabilities). The use of pre-employment health questions contributes to the burden of unemployment and poverty experienced by people living with HIV.
Of the 71 providers known to be using unlawful health questions, NAT successfully supported 45 to update their practice. Twenty-one providers who had not responded have been referred to the Equality and Human Rights Commission – the arm’s length body responsible for the enforcement of the Equality Act in England, Wales and Scotland. Five providers appear to have closed since the project began.
Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), said: “It is extremely concerning that so much unlawful behaviour has been so easily identified, simply from a scan of provider websites, despite it being nine years since the Equality Act was introduced.
“People living with HIV and other disabilities are heavily impacted by the continued use of unlawful questions which can severely limit people’s opportunities to apply for and secure a job. Our work shows an urgent need for education about equality legislation across the social care sector.
“Local authorities have a responsibility, under the Public Sector Equality Duty, to have due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, including in services local authorities commission. We urge Directors of Adult Social Care to audit their social care providers to ensure compliance with section 60 of the Equality Act.”