Discrimination Questionnaires bite the dust

With effect from 06/04/14 the Statutory Questionnaire Procedure that previously applied in discrimination cases will be abolished.

Essentially, the Procedure allowed potential claimants an opportunity to put employers on the spot at an early stage regarding any suspected discrimination. If the employer failed to respond, responded equivocally, or its response lacked credibility, and the case proceeded to an Employment Tribunal Hearing, the response could form the basis of an inference that discrimination had in fact occurred.

The problem was that the Procedure was often used as a blatant, and far ranging, fishing expedition which employers found most burdensome.

However, the principle that an adverse inference may be drawn from an employer’s response (or failure to respond) to questions put to it in correspondence remains. ACAS has published guidance on asking and responding to questions of discrimination, which is in substance the same as the outgoing Procedure: so little has changed.

Employers should be alert to the possibility that correspondence from aggrieved employees or job applicants may be relied upon in any subsequent claim and that they must be responded to carefully, accurately and without delay.