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Equality & Employment | The Careers Service Equality & Employment – Oxford University Careers Service
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The Equality Act

The Equality Act (2010) protects you against discrimination based on certain characteristics, including age, gender, disability, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or beliefs, and sexual orientation.

It is not unlawful for an employer to collect information on race, ethnicity and other protected characteristics when recruiting new staff. Many organisations choose to do so in order to monitor the effectiveness of their equal opportunities policy. However, you don’t have to give this information if you don’t want to. Employers are under a duty not to treat you differently because of your age, disability, sex, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, race, religion or belief, or marriage.

See the Equality Act website for further information on your rights, what areas are covered by the act and what action you can take if you feel you have been unfairly discriminated against.


To tell or not to tell – if, when and how

A frequently-asked question in the Careers Service is whether to tell a prospective employer about a disability or a health condition.  This is often called ‘disclosure’ or being ‘open’ about your specific circumstances.

Many students fear that if they tell a recruiter about a disability or health condition (or having taken time-out of studies due to that health condition), they may get pre-judged – and that the information may eclipse their abilities.

Making a decision to disclose a disability or not is a personal choice, and there are various points in the application and selection process that you may choose to mention your disability or health condition. Hence, the if, when and how to tell a recruiter.

Reasons you may wish to disclose

  • Employment is covered by The Equality Act (2010): Disability. The Act states that is it against the law for employers to discriminate against you because of a disability and covers a broad range of areas including application forms, interview arrangements, aptitude tests and pay.
  • Many employers are keen to employ disabled people. Look out for the ‘ Disability Confident‘ employer symbol on job advertisements, awarded by the JobCentre Plus. This means the employer has made some commitment to employing disabled people, such as guaranteeing a job interview for disabled applicants if they meet the minimum job criteria. This scheme has replaced the ‘two ticks guaranteed interview scheme’  and has different levels that employers can apply for. See the Government website for more information.
  • You are able to describe your disability in a positive way; you will be able to take a relevant opportunity to describe your disability positively, for example when talking about overcoming a particular challenge.
  • If you disclose, employers can get help and advice on adaptations to the workplace for a disabled applicant or employee from the Disability Employment Adviser (DEA) at the JobCentre Plus. Funding is also available through such programmes as the Access to Work Scheme.
  • You may feel the need to explain aspects of your CV, such as a gap in your education or lower exam grades than your peers – if these are a consequence of how you have had to manage your disability/health condition. These are mitigating circumstances.

Reasons you may wish not to disclose:

  • You may feel that your disability may have little or no impact on your ability to do the job.
  • You may feel that it will give the employer the chance to label you by your disability, and thus not recognise your abilities.

Alongside disclosing a disability, consideration needs to be given as to at what point in the application process to do so: on the application form/CV, at interview, before an assessment centre, when a job offer is made or when employed. Adjustments may be helpful to a disabled applicant at any of these stages. If the employer does not know that you have a disability, then they are not able to make adjustments that may assist you.

Getting advice

It is a good idea to think through the reasons  for and against disclosing from your perspective before making a decision. There are a number of useful resources that you can access, such as Great with Disability and AGCAS Diversity Matters that  may help you, but having the opportunity to talk your circumstances through with a Careers Adviser can help you to decide what is ‘right for you’. Contact the Careers Service Reception to speak with one of our disability Careers Advisers – Annie Dutton and  Damilola Odimayo – to arrange a “long discussion”. These appointments can be arranged to be held via Skype, phone or in your college, depending on your access needs.

You may also want to come to one of our termly sessions on “The If, How and When of Disclosure” or the pre-entry sessions held before Careers Fairs titled ‘Engaging with Recruiters as  a Disabled Student’. These sessions are an opportunity to find out how you can assess how disability friendly or aware a recruiter actually is to help you decide whether you want to apply to them. There will also be opportunity to access a number of Careers Fairs before the main start time of the Fair. See CareerConnect for dates.

Further sources of advice and resources

A  number of independent organisations and charities exist to help people with a disability access the right job for them. Some notable ones include:

  • AGCAS diversity matters series – Specialist advice from the Association of Graduate Careers Advisory Services on key diversity issues including gender, race and disability. Use this resource to identify diversity positive employers, understand disclosure and get an understanding of your rights.
  • MyPlus Students Club–  website for students with disabilities or long-term health conditions. It provides these students with information  to prepare for graduate job applications and the recruitment process.
  • EmployAbility – Advice for disabled people on careers, employment and legislation. Links to relevant sources for advice and support.
  • Disability Rights UK – Aims to strengthen the voice of disabled people and provides a huge amount of practical information on accessing resources.
  • The Equality & Human Rights Commission – Have a statutory remit to protect, enforce and promote equality. Their website contains lots of advice and guidance.
  • Association of Disabled Professionals – For professionals, entrepreneurs, students and the self-employed. Can be accessed via audio/no graphics/large text versions.
  • Disabled Entrepreneurs – Aims to inspire and support disabled people to become successful entrepreneurs.

Many companies have comprehensive policies which detail their commitment to equality. Larger employers often have LGBTQ staff groups, such as our own here at Oxford University, and many have LGBTQ recruitment events to encourage applications. These are likely to be advertised via CareerConnect and  OULGBTQ Soc

It is up to you how much you choose to say about your personal life on your CV or in an interview, so you might like to consider the advantages of detailing your responsibilities as, say, Treasurer of the LGBTQ Society, against any possible disadvantages.

Remember that the legal situation may be different in other countries, and so research legislation in the country that you wish to work in. You may wish to discuss your particular situation with a careers adviser.

Politics and faith

There is no problem with having strongly-held political or religious views as long as they don’t hinder your ability to do the job.

Some people worry about referencing interests in their applications which they perceive might ‘put employers off’. Extreme political or religious views can fall into that category. Think carefully about how you might phrase such interests, and certainly avoid any suggestion that your views might make you a difficult person with whom to work. The skills you have gained in a position of responsibility in a religious or political student society may be more important to an employer than any disagreement with your personal views.

Obviously though, your views may be an asset to certain organisations. As a Liberal Democrat, your application to work as a Research Assistant for a Lib Dem MP would undoubtedly be strengthened by your politics, and applications to a religious charity might be aided if you practised that religion.

This information was last updated on 12 September 2017.
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