What to do if a reference for a prospective employee shows long-term absence

In a recent Employment Tribunal (West v Yorkshire Ambulance Services NHS Trust) the claimant was successful in a claim for discrimination on the basis of disability when the prospective employer withdrew a job offer having discovered details of the claimant’s record of long-term absences.
Mrs West was offered a conditional job offer but when the prospective employer received a reference from her previous employer and an occupational health assessment the offer of employment was withdrawn.
Mrs West claimed in the employment tribunal that the withdrawal of the job offer constituted discrimination arising from disability under the Equality Act 2010 and the Employment Tribunal upheld this claim.
What does this mean for employers?
This is yet another example of a situation where care should be taken when taking action regarding an employee’s ability to do a job and highlights the need to be mindful of possible discrimination even before someone has started with the company.

  • Care needs to be taken not to discriminate during the whole recruitment process – from job ad to interview, to offer, to induction and probation.
  • Remember that you should only ask pre-employment health questions in order to make adjustments to the role you are offering – not so that you can decline to offer employment.
  • If an issue arises and you’re unsure of how to proceed, seek advice.