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Do I have to answer that? Disclosing personal information to an employer.

Whether it’s in a formal interview setting or in the course of everyday conversations in the workplace, no one likes to be caught off-guard with personal questions.

But if it’s an employer that’s asking, do you have to answer?

Read on for answers and advice.

Is it relevant to being able to do your job?

To prevent discrimination, it’s illegal in Australia for employers to ask for personal information that has no bearing on your job.

For most jobs in social care, the following personal attributes aren’t relevant to a worker’s ability to perform their duties:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Political opinions
  • Sexuality
  • Parental status (whether you have/are planning to have kids).

You’re welcome to share this personal information if you’re comfortable, but know that you don’t have to if you’re not.

If the information isn’t relevant to employees being able to perform their duties, employers aren’t allowed to factor it into staffing decisions (like who they hire, promote, roster, etc.).

The exceptions

Of course, there are always exceptions.

In some roles, a worker’s personal attributes ARE relevant to their job – so it’s ok for an employer to ask about them.

For example, if a role involves driving, it would be fair for an employer to ask whether you hold a current driver’s license.

Similarly, organisations seeking to employ a chaplain will likely have to ask about candidates’ religious beliefs – as they’re relevant to the role.

Not essential, but could be helpful

When it comes to health conditions, many workers find it helpful to share these with their employers, even if they’re not legally required to do so.

This is mostly the case in situations where an employer can make reasonable adjustments (e.g. to schedule, workload, hours, desk setup, etc.) that help employees to be able to do their job while managing their health.

Heads Up have great resources to help workers weigh up whether to disclose any mental health conditions in the workplace.

What to do if you are asked for personal information you don’t need to disclose?

If you’re not comfortable with a question, it’s ok to politely steer the conversation away.

You could say something like, “I’d rather talk about something else if that’s ok,” or even ask how the question relates to the job.

For the legal lowdown on discrimination against employees based on irrelevant personal attributes, check out the government’s Fair Work website.

How have you navigated personal questions in the workplace? Share your experiences below!

Be. Recruitment is a specialist recruitment partner for the health and social care sector. If you’re looking to take the next step in your social care career, get in touch for a confidential chat today:

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