Are we really all equal?

Peter Mills , 07 Oct 2010

We’re now a few days into October and I was wondering how the new Equality Act was affecting businesses. Certainly some of the companies that I work with have had to hurriedly change their pre-employment processes to remove all questioning about medical health issues.

I am sure the intent of the new legislation was noble, but I am less clear as to how this will impact businesses, especially in these tough economic times where everyone is trying to do more with less.

What do we know? Well, we do know that from a population level at least, certain medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, arthritis, asthma and COPD) have an impact upon employee workplace productivity and performance in terms of greater absenteeism and reduced productivity. Clearly this doesn’t apply to all individuals with these conditions, but taken as a group these are consistent finding across a number of research studies.

Now, I’m not advocating refusing employment to people with long-term conditions, but I think from an employer’s perspective knowing they exist could certainly help with ensuring job design is appropriate and that ultimately the individual can be given the best opportunity to perform to their maximum.

Anyway, we are where we are, and although as employers we cannot ask about health issues pre-employment the Act does not, as far as I am aware, prevent annual health risk appraisals (HRA) of the employee base. As readers of this blog will know, I’m a big advocate of HRAs and believe the information gleaned from an annual assessment can help direct HR strategy in a number of positive ways.

I’d be interested to hear from readers how the Equality Act has changed pre-employment practices, so please post some comments.

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