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Questions not to ask at interview

2013 August 2

Interviewing can be a nerve wracking process and it’s understandable that families want to find out as much about their potential nanny as possible, but there are certain questions which should be avoided in case they lead to direct or indirect discrimination.

In some cases you may have reasons for wanting to know the information and feel that bring direct and open is the best way, but you must phrase your questions carefully so they are supported by a legitimate need and do not leave you open to claims of discrimination.

“Are you married/in a relationship?”

Why it’s bad: Questions about marital status can be seen as discrimatory, or trying to find out about sexual preferences.
Why you might want to know: If you’re hiring a live in nanny you might want to know whether they’re going to move their partner in too, or whether you’ll be waking up to a string of different ‘houseguests’
What you can say: “Would you expect to have guests to stay?”

“Do you have children?”

Why it’s bad: A nanny could claim that you discriminated against them if you didn’t give them the job and gave it to someone who didn’t have children.
Why you might want to know: A whole host of reasons, including whether the nanny is likely to want to bring their children to work regularly or occasionally or whether they have their own children to pick up from childcare, thus reducing their flexibility.
What you can say: “Do you have any obligations at home which may interfere with your attendance or ability to do this job and how do you plan to minimise the impact of those?

“Are you planning to have children soon?”

Why it’s bad: This is definitely discriminatory – although you are trying to reduce the impact of an employee going on maternity or paternity leave it’s illegal to ask this question.
Why you might want to know: A nanny planning to start a family will mean you need to find alternative childcare to cover the leave they are entitled to.
What you can say: Nothing. This is a risk you need to be prepared to take.

“Do you have a disability?”

Why it’s bad: Asking someone whether they have a disability contravenes legislation on equality.
Why you might want to know: Some disabilities may impair a nanny’s ability to do their job.
What you can say: You can focus on whether the applicant is able to do the job e.g. “Are you able to lift and carry my toddler?”. You can also ask whether you need to make reasonable adjustments once a job offer has been made. As an employer it is up to you to decide what is ‘reasonable’ in terms of your requirements. You may not be able to adjust working hours, for example, but you may be able to accommodate time off for treatment on a regular basis. If you are in any doubt we suggest you seek specialist advice.

“How old are you?”

Why it’s bad: Knowing someone’s age could lead to a claim of age discrimination. You must focus on someone’s ability to do the job, whether old or young.
Why you might want to know: Nosiness!
What you can say: Nothing.

“Where do you come from?”

Why it’s bad: Nationality and ethnicity should have no bearing on someone’s suitability as a nanny.
Why you might want to know: If you require your nanny to travel or if you have concerns about their right to work in the UK (which you should verify in any case) you may feel reassured by knowing their nationality. You may also think this is a friendly question inviting the nanny to talk about themselves. In rare cases it may be a genuine occupational requirement that a nanny holds a particular passport.
What you can say: “Are you able to travel within the EU without restrictions/to X with the appropriate visa?” “Can you provide evidence of your right to work in the UK?”

“What religion are you?”

Why it’s bad: This question is grounds for claiming discrimination.
Why you might want to know: If you want your nanny to support your religious practices you might think the simplest way is if they belong to your religion.
What you can say: “We are Jewish/Hindu/Catholic and would like you to respect our traditions and support our children in their religious development. Do you feel comfortable doing that?”

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