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Dear Theo can they ask for my sickness history on the application form

Discussion in 'Jobseekers' started by minnieminx, Apr 19, 2011.

  1. minnieminx

    minnieminx New commenter

    Our LA form asks for the number of periods of absence in the last 3 years. Then, if there are any, you need to give the duration and reason.

    To be honest, some schools will exclude you, if all else is equal, for half a term off. Others, like mine, don't actually read that far through the form before shortlisting. We only look at the current position and the supporting statement part before interviewing. We'd look through the rest if there were concerns from the current post or if two candidates were equally good at the end of interviewing.

    You do need to answer and you do need to be upfront with a short reason why. Don't go into details. Just put something like 'Six weeks absence; situational anxiety.' And leave it at that, unless it specifically asks for more.
  2. TheoGriff

    TheoGriff Star commenter

    This is a tricky issue, because currently the advice is not clear.
    In fact the information about the DDA (now the Equality Act 2010) and the new regs that came in on 1st October last year is unclear in that it contradicts other legal requirements.
    A school has, in fact, a legal obligation to ensure that teachers are fit to teach. Similarly, PGCE courses require the same from student applicants.
    Fitness to Teach


    To be able to undertake teaching duties safely and effectively, it is essential that individual teachers:

    • Have the health and well-being necessary to deal with the specific types of teaching and associated duties (adjusted, as appropriate) in which they are engaged.
    • Are able to communicate effectively with children, parents and colleagues.
    • Possess sound judgement and insight.
    • Remain alert at all times.
    • Can respond to pupils' needs rapidly and effectively.
    • Are able to manage classes.
    • Do not constitute any risk to the health, safety or well-being of children in their care.
    • Can, where disabilities exist, be enabled by reasonable adjustments to meet these criteria.
    The decision on fitness, should be considered using the above criteria and should be based on an individual's ability to satisfy those criteria in relation to all duties undertaken as part of their specific post and in relation to all of the individual's health problems.

    My advice from an HR professional is that you can ask about absences, but you cannot make an employment decision based on them. You can, therefore, collect this information before interview for monitoring purposes, or to enable you to make reasonable adjustments for a candidate at interview.
    But since Fitness to Teach is a legal requirement for teaching, it could be said that unfitness specifically disqualifies you, and therefore it is legitimate to make this enquiry at application and reference stage.

    The specialist education lawyers Rickerbys say this:
    "In the case of teaching staff, the ISC is in dialogue with the DfE regarding the requirement for teachers to be medically fit to teach, as required by Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment in Education.

    Questions at the application stage should go no further than establishing this fitness to teach or to ascertain if any reasonable adjustments are needed to the interview and selection process. It will therefore be legitimate to require candidates to confirm on the application form that they are
    medically fit to teach.

    Once the offer of employment is made, further details, for example completion of a medical questionnaire and provision of sickness record from past employers can be requested."
    Safer Recruitment in Education states that:
    3.45. An offer of appointment to the successful candidate should be conditional upon:
    • the receipt of at least two satisfactory references
    • verification of the candidate's identity
    • a check of List 99 and a satisfactory CRB Disclosure
    • verification of the candidate's medical fitness
    • verification of qualifications
    • verification of professional status where required e.g. GTC registration, QTS status, NPQH
    • verification of successful completion of statutory induction period
    The Government guidance goes on to say that it is essential that managers take steps to ensure:
    • That those who teach are competent and fit to do so.
    • That they remain competent and fit.
    • That the health, safety and well being of staff and students is safeguarded.
    • That they comply with all legislative requirements including Health and Safety and Disability Discrimination legislation.
    • That a consistent quality and standard of education is delivered to all those for whom they have a responsibility.
    As part of satisfying these requirements employers should seek specialist advice in relation to fitness to teach for all staff who they intend to employ.
    Managers should seek specialist advice in relation to those who have suffered significant illness or injury to ensure that they are fit to return to teaching duties.

    Basically there are two conflicting bits of legislation. The requirement to ensure, before confirming any offer of employment to a teacher, that they are fit to teach, and the legislation to protect those who are unwell against discrimination.

    4.38. Anyone appointed to a post involving regular contact with children or young people must be medically fit (see the Education (Health Standards) (England) Regulations 2003). It is the statutory responsibility of employers to satisfy themselves that individuals have the appropriate level of physical and mental fitness before an appointment offer is confirmed.

    I see a lot of money being earned by lawyers over this!
    I could go on for ever quoting from documents! But you'll all just sigh and say TLDR.
    As far as job aplications are concerned, the advice always is to be honest. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
    Best wishes!

    TheoGriff. Member of the TES Careers Advice Service.
    The TES Careers Advice service runs seminars and workshops, one-to-one careers and applications advice, one-to-one interview coaching and an application review service.
    I do Application and Interview one-to-ones, and also contribute to the Job Application Workshops. We look at application letters, executive summaries and interviews.
    By popular demand! In response to Tessers e-mailing in: another Job Seminar now on Saturday 14th May:
    The next Moving onto Leadship seminar is Sunday 15th May.
    E-mail Julia on advice@tsleducation.com for how to book a meeting with me personally.
    Look forward to seeing you!

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