Disabled job-seekers and the law

Moira Petty / 11 November 2015

What questions are employers not allowed to ask disabled applicants? If you are disabled and looking for work, know the law and your rights under the Equality Act 2010.



The Disability Discrimination Act (1995) was pioneering in protecting the rights of disabled people.  

The DDA provided a robust set of guidelines for business.  It was vital in helping companies improve their disability performance and strengthened the legal rights of disabled people to hold to account companies that fell short. It focused strongly on the responsibility of employers and service providers to make adjustments and remove barriers for people with disabilities.

It has been superseded by the Equality Act 2010. This also requires employers to make reasonable adjustments to any elements of the job which put a disabled person at a disadvantage compared to non-disabled workers.

Read our guide to finding work if you are disabled.

What employers can and can’t ask about the disability of an applicant when recruiting

This is laid out in Section 60 of the Equality Act. It is unlawful to for an employer to ask questions about the applicant’s health or disability except the following.

  • To establish what is needed for the applicant to attend and compete fairly in the interview. Example: if the process includes an assessment using a desktop computer, they can ask if the applicant is able to do that.

  • To find out if the applicant will be able to carry out functions intrinsic to the job (after reasonable adjustments have been made). Example: they may ask if the applicant has the necessary physical fitness and if they will meet safety standards.

  • To monitor the diversity of applicants or if they need someone with a specific disability to do the job.

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Reasonable adjustments

Employers have a legal duty to make reasonable adjustments to enable a disabled person to do their job. This is a collaborative, problem-solving process in which employee and employer work together to mutual benefit.

Examples of adjustments include:

  • Provision of recruitment literature in large print.

  • Provision of extra equipment in interviews/holding the session in a wheelchair-accessible room.

  • Allowing a guide or hearing dog into the workplace.

  • Purchase of specialist equipment, eg, an ergonomic chair.

  • Allowing disability-related sickness leave.

  • Including a disabled parking space in the car park.

  • Allowing different start and end times to the working day.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.