The A-Z Pre-Employment Guide for employers & employees

R. 

RACE

Q. Can I be asked to state my race on a job application form?

A. No, discrimination on the basis of race is prohibited by the Act.

Employers should avoid asking questions or asking for information about the race, colour, ethnic or national origins of the job applicants unless they are collecting anonymous statistical data for EEO reporting or for profiling who responds to their job applications. If an employer is collecting data for those purposes it should ideally be collected on a separate form.

REASONABLE ACCOMODATION

Q. What is reasonable accommodation and what does it require of an employer?

A. Reasonable accommodation is not straight forward, either as a concept or how it's dealt with in the Act.

Reasonable accommodation describes creating an environment that's intended to ensure equality of opportunity to meet:

  • the particular practices of an employee's religious or ethical beliefs
  • the employee's needs relating to a disability
  • the employee's needs relating to family commitments.

Reasonable accommodation can involve modifications or adjustments that will, for example, allow a job applicant with a disability to participate more equally in a work place. It can involve physical adjustments such as ensuring access to a building or modifying the way a job is done, for example allocating aspects of the job to another employee. 

The Act creates a clear obligation for employers to meet the particular needs of an employee with disabilities or religious or ethical beliefs. An employer is obliged to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs and needs relating to disability provided it does not unreasonably disrupt the employer's activities. The Act provides a number of defences but before an employer can rely upon them, they need to genuinely consider whether the job could be adjusted by reassigning aspects that the job applicant is unable to do to another employee.

In an employment setting factors such as:

  • health and safety
  • cost (in relation to the size of an employer's business)
  • the activities or business of the organisation will be relevant in assessing reasonableness. 

Q. Does reasonable accommodation mean an employer has to spend money adapting equipment or the workplace?

A. The short answer is no.

However, as many adjustments are minor and involve minimal outlay, in the interests of EEO and attracting quality candidates, employers should try and accommodate a job applicant's needs. Three training and employment support funds are available for people with disabilities in New Zealand. They are:

  1. Training Support, 
  2. Job Support,
  3. and Self Start.

Each fund has set targets to assist people who have higher support needs. There is a focus on ensuring that the funds are used to cover the applicant's 'cost of disability' – additional costs a jobseeker or student has as a direct consequence of their disability, when undertaking the same job or training as a person without disability. The funds encourage people with disabilities into mainstream employment.

More information about the funds is available from Workbridge

RECRUITMENT CONSULTANTS 

Q. Can an employer ask a recruitment consultant to ensure that the only job applicants who are shortlisted are from a particular group, for example young or Pakeha?

A. No

The Act applies in the same way to the recruitment consultant as it does to the employer, even if the recruitment consultant is acting on behalf of or following the instructions of the employer.

RELATIVES

Q. Can I complain about discrimination if I did not get a job because of a relative's actions: for example, my brother who was a previous employee was sacked for dishonesty?

A. Yes, the Act prohibits discrimination because you're a relative of a particular person.

The Act has a broad definition of relative: it means any other person who:

  • is related to the person by blood, marriage, civil union, de facto relationship, affinity, or adoption
  • is wholly or mainly dependent on the person
  • is a member of the person's household.

RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

Q. Can an employer ask job applicants if there's anything to prevent them working on Friday, Saturday or Sunday?

A. If an employer is concerned about a job applicant's availability to work on religious holidays, they could explain the schedule of work and ask the applicant whether it causes any difficulties.

For example, if an applicant's religion does not allow work on Saturdays, the employer must adjust the shifts to accommodate the applicant, as long as this adjustment would not be unreasonably disruptive.

An employer should avoid asking questions about a job applicant's religious beliefs or the lack of a religious belief, church activities, or participation in religious practices.


Q. Can I ask an employer to provide me with a place of prayer at my workplace?

A. Where a religious belief requires its believers to follow a particular practice, an employer must accommodate the practice as long as doing so does not unreasonably disrupt the employer's activities.

Within particular work places it may be possible to provide a room or other designated place at the required times.

See also: Reasonable accommodation

RISK OF HARM

Q. Can an employer treat me differently if there's a risk I might hurt myself, or others, due to my disability?

A. Yes, the Act has an exception allowing employers to treat job applicants differently where the duties of the job or work environment pose an unreasonable risk of harm to the applicant or to others.

For example, a person with a serious visual impairment who applies for a job as a driver may fall within this exception.

If a job applicant has a disability, an employer must decide whether there is a health and safety risk resulting from the applicant's disability and whether it is reasonable to take that risk.

Unless the job applicant is required to perform tasks that could involve a risk of harm, an employer should avoid questions about disability. In the example given above of the driver, the employer would be perfectly entitled to ask questions about disabilities.

Where the risk of harm would be no greater than employing someone without a disability, it would be unreasonable not to employ a disabled person who is the best qualified applicant. The risk needs to be an actual risk rather than a perceived risk. For example, the risk of transmitting AIDS is almost non-existent without blood or sexual fluids being exchanged.

Risk assessment decisions are likely to be based on medical advice or other appropriate expert advice and the relevant evidence.

The Act places the onus on an employer to reduce any such risk to a normal level unless doing so would cause unreasonable disruption.