This is an extract from our full guide ‘Illegal Interview Questions’.

When conducting an interview, you must be very careful when asking questions that may be anti-discriminatory. It’s important to recognise that there are often “grey” areas that may appear harmless, yet are illegal.

Place of birth, ethnicity and religion

As an employer, you are entitled to ask if someone has the correct paperwork to legally work in the UK. However you are not allowed to ask where they are from. This could be interpreted as hiring staff on the grounds of their nationality, race or ethnicity.

Furthermore, you cannot ask someone about their ethnic background and certainly cannot ask the job applicant about their religion. (Questions about any religious holidays they may need off is illegal)

Marital status, children and sexual orientation

A seemingly innocent question about how many children they have or a reference to their marital status is something that should not be discussed in an interview. Your comments could be misinterpreted as making unfair references about how their family situation will affect their ability to do their job. Furthermore, you should never ask about a candidates sexual orientation, as this could also be ground for discrimination of unfair treatment.


Unless the job you’re recruiting for has an age restriction (such as a driving job or an apprenticeship), you shouldn’t ask questions such as “When do you plan to retire?”

Disability and illness

You are entitled to question a person over a significant period of sickness leave. However, you cannot ask a person whether a disability or illness will affect their ability to perform at work.

Lifestyle choices

What an employee does outside of work (i.e. if they smoke or drink) is not the company’s business and thus this topic is out of bounds. A company is only entitled to have internal policies on the issues.

Criminal convictions

Questioning a candidate about any arrests or convictions may be illegal. For certain jobs, you can run a Criminal Records Bureau check (which Recruitment Genius can help you with)

Group membership

Another topic that shouldn’t be addressed includes questions about any memberships or affiliations with any organisations. The exception being if they are directly related to any problems you might foresee in terms of their time commitments and how that may affect their ability to do their job.

Other personal questions

Questions about height and weight are also discriminatory unless the job is exempt in terms of it being acceptable to have a certain minimum height requirement.

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