Yes, job applicants are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 in the same way as employees. This means that job applicants, individuals who have accepted but not yet started a job, employees on a permanent or temporary contract, and casual or freelance workers can make religion or belief requests. These might be around dress codes or changes to work duties for example.
If you refuse a request you must make sure you are not indirectly or directly discriminating against your employee or others sharing the same religion or belief. See our guide to the law to find out more about direct and indirect discrimination.
In most cases, you should not ask about a candidate’s religion or belief at interview. Employers should focus solely on the candidate’s ability to meet the job description and key competencies relevant to the position. Asking a candidate about their religion or belief at an interview when it is not a requirement of the position could give rise to perception on their part that a subsequent failure to appoint was discriminatory because their religion or belief had been taken into account when it wasn’t relevant.
The exception to this is when there is an occupational requirement for the appointment of someone holding a particular religion or belief. The Equality Act 2010 allows such occupational requirement to be used in limited circumstances. In those cases it is lawful to ask questions to establish whether the candidate meets the occupational requirement. See our guidance on equality law for more details about occupational requirements.
It is good practice for employers to allow some flexibility around interview dates and times for everyone. This can ensure that individuals are not disadvantaged on grounds of religion or belief, or for other reasons for example, needing to arrange childcare to attend an interview. Giving some scope to change dates or times will mean that those who have suitable qualifications can apply and attend for selection.
If you receive a request to change an interview time for a religion or belief reason you should properly consider that request to see whether it can be met. You need to make sure you are not discriminating against the candidate by insisting they attend at the given time. If there are good reasons why it’s not possible to provide an alternative date then it’s unlikely to be discrimination. For example, if the given time is the only time when all panel members can get together to interview candidates. See our decision-making tool to help you handle employee requests.
Last updated: 27 Mar 2017