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Interviews and Discrimination. Are you breaking the law without realising it?

Is it legal to ask someone if they are married in an interview?

Do you know the answer?

An article recently published by Recruitment Grapevine made us here at 4 Leisure Recruitment wonder if all employers really know. We, of course, know the answer, but it’s clear that without the right knowledge of HR and the law, many companies are leaving themselves open to action.

The article discusses how in order to prevent being asked again at a job interview what her marital status was a young lady chose to wear a fake wedding ring to avoid the subject. Yet the lady in question should never have felt that she needed to avoid the subject as her marital status is her own private business. Indeed, the right to keep it private is protected by discrimination laws.

In a standard conversation when meeting someone for the first time, openers to get the conversation going may well include:

  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children?
  • Are you planning a family?
  • Are you pregnant?
  • Do you smoke?

Yet all these questions are classed by the government as ‘protected characteristics’ and if you question a candidate about these and many others including religious beliefs and nationality you can be classed as discriminatory and they are therefore illegal.

Another ‘protected characteristic’ that many employers may not realise is protected is that of a candidates’ age. Simply asking a candidate who has submitted a CV and omitted their date of birth, how old they are can be seen as a form of discrimination in an interview situation. Equality and diversity monitoring forms ask for anonymous voluntary contributions from candidates regarding nationality, ethnicity, gender and age, but these are indeed ‘voluntary’. Age can be asked of a candidate where the job itself has an age-related boundary, such as serving alcohol.

Job interviews and discrimination If you are new to employing staff and are enjoying getting to know the candidates, please bear in mind your legal duties as governed by discrimination laws. You cannot discriminate against a candidate because she (or he) has children and will be using childcare. You cannot discriminate against a candidate because they smoke, and you cannot discriminate against a candidate for their religious beliefs. Disability and health can only be questioned if ‘there are necessary requirements of the jobs that can’t be met with reasonable adjustments’. ACAS recommends that all persons conducting interviews be trained and are aware of the relevant laws, but when you operate a small business and are doing the recruiting yourself it may seem a lot simpler than it actually is.

Interviews are indeed a tool to be used to get to know the candidate sat in front of you. They are a wonderful opportunity to let the candidate prove to you they will fit in with your team and they are exactly the right person for the job. It is also an opportunity for employers unaware of employment and discrimination laws to edge into trouble unwittingly and to lay themselves open for a discrimination claim.

Interviews are a great tool when used the way they are intended, which is to ascertain if a person is the right person for the job. If you are new to or in need of a refresher about what you can and can’t legally ask a candidate, then check out

The ACAS website is an invaluable tool for all employers. Have a look at

ACAS have produced a booklet specifically aimed at helping businesses ensure they conduct themselves within the realms of the law which you may also find useful – you can see it at

Alternatively, you could just move all your recruitment needs to a leisure recruitment team who put your needs and those of all candidates first in everything we do! #Love4Leisure

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