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How to deal with a question about sick leave on job application form

(9 Posts)
Kentishnomad Sun 24-Aug-14 10:17:44

I am applying for a job and the very first question after name and address is about the number of days I have been off sick in the past 18 months. My sick record over the past 12 months is fine, but prior to that I was treated for breast cancer and so was off work for the best part of a year. I know that the law changed in 2010 and this question can no longer be asked, and I suspect it may be a case of the application form not having been updated. I am happy to be honest about my sick leave and the reasons for it at the appropriate time, so I am wondering how best to answer this question as I don't want to jeopardise my chances of getting an interview.

I feel my options are to (a) answer the question honestly, (b) omit to answer it and deal with that at a later date if I get to interview, (c) state that I am happy to supply the details after interview, (d) point out that it is not a question that can be asked. Option d would flag me up as a trouble maker, option c might also raise queries, b could go against me (ie lack of attention to detail which is part of the job spec), but I feel rather strongly about taking option a when the employer is not allowed to ask this. (Is it wishful thinking that an HR department would be aware of changes in employment law and would alter their forms accordingly? Obviously many employees would not be aware unless this affected them, as it does me).

Any ideas about the best thing to do? Thanks! smile

JustAShopGirl Sun 24-Aug-14 17:43:14

I personally would omit the answer and then discuss the legalities of the question if it came up at interview.

funchum8am Sun 24-Aug-14 17:54:22

When I am asked to fill in reference forms asking this for former staff I managed, I write on "this information can only be provided after job offer has been made -Equality Act" on my boss' advice.

That isn't directly relevant as it is you being asked direct, rather than a former employer, but could you ring their HR and ask what they suggest? You don't want to look troublesome but the new rules are no good for exactly those people they should protect, ie people in your position, if we all feel compelled to ignore them.

Thistledew Sun 24-Aug-14 18:30:20

Could you contact the HR in the company and say "I seem to have been sent an out-dated version of the application form which still carries questions about sick leave. I assume this is a mistake, as since (date) it hasn't been lawful to ask that question. Do you want to send me an updated form, or should I ignore that question?"

Kentishnomad Sun 24-Aug-14 20:08:01

Thanks! Going to the HR dept is an interesting suggestion as long as they have one - this is a job in a (small) private school and from what I know of it they don't have a dedicated HR dept - I am likely to end up back with the Head's PA who has so far been the key point of contact. I will have a think about that idea as really don't want rock the boat before I have got an interview.

I like the suggestion, funchum, about writing that statement on reference forms - this crops up all the time in my current role (where references are taken up before an interview has taken place) and that is a nice way round the question.

maggiethemagpie Mon 25-Aug-14 19:15:14

I totally agree that they shouldn't be asking you the question, but if you to to the boss's PA and say that you're not happy answering it ,or just point out that it shouldn't be asked, they will wonder what you have to hide. Difficult one. Personally, I'd put TBC on the application form and then if you get an interview, discuss it if and only if they bring it up. If you just put a large number of days without any explanation then you will probably not get shortlisted. You may have a claim against them though!

catsofa Mon 25-Aug-14 19:23:48

Is it illegal to ask this? I did not know that, and it's something I've worried about due to time off my previous job when stress about the job was giving me full blown panic attacks. Is it legal to ask at some future stage? Is it likely to be one of the things they ask referees about from previous jobs?

OP I'd probably just leave the box blank, as it doesn't draw attention and there's the possibility of you just having accidentally missed the question out. Alternatively could you write N/A for not applicable?

funchum8am Wed 27-Aug-14 10:31:53

If it is a school they may have outsourced HR to a services company like EPM, so the head's PA may be able to get advice from them if you raise it with her.

FranksWife Thu 28-Aug-14 08:07:11

Having had BC myself it is not something I share with all and sundry so i know how you feel.

I would record your sickness for 2013-14, and add a note that you suffered an unexpected period of ill health prioir to this and you will be happy to provide further details at interview if you are sucessful. This way they can see the last year of employment, and that you needed specialist treatment before this, but aren't prepared to go into detail at this stage. You are not hiding anything and in fact are being truthful without sharing your confidential health history.

Good luck!

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