Survey by the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency: Applicants report inadmissible questions in job interviews/ ignorance of legal situation

Year of issue 2018
Date 2018.12.05

Twelve years have passed since the General Equal Treatment Act entered into force and managers hiring still ask applicants inadmissible questions in job interviews. These are the findings of the What Employers (May) Ask survey (Was Arbeitgeber fragen (dürfen)), which was commissioned by the Anti-Discrimination Agency and presented on Wednesday.

Eight percent of the women and men surveyed report at some point having been asked whether they wished to have children; six percent of women interviewed report having been asked if they were pregnant. Eighteen percent of participants said they had been asked whether German was their native language, and 15 percent reported they had been asked about their religious affiliation. In general, such questions are inadmissible. Not all applicants know that. Even the question of whether someone is currently pregnant, which is unequivocally – and without exception – prohibited, is considered by 39 percent of interviewees a legitimate question for an employer to ask.
"Questions about plans on having children, pregnancy, one’s sexual orientation or, for instance, about relatives in need of care have no place in a job interview", says Bernhard Franke, acting head of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency. "The focus must always be on the applicants’ qualifications. Employers may not make an applicant’s future desire to have children or their background a condition for giving or denying them a job. Applicants, who are asked such questions, need not answer – and, with regard to pregnancy, are even permitted to answer dishonestly. Since all of those things are none of the employer’s business."
The General Equal Treatment Act (AGG) prohibits discrimination of employees on grounds of age, disability, ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation or of religion/beliefs. Therefore, questions on pregnancy, for instance, constitute a discrimination of female applicants based on their gender and hence a violation of the principle of non-discrimination.The survey also asked applicants whether they had ever personally been asked about personal characteristics such as age, civil status or nationality in a job interview. The results suggest that such characteristics, which had often already been mentioned in the application, are addressed relatively frequently in job interviews. In addition, almost one in three interviewees (30 percent) report having been asked at one point about how they would reconcile their work with family commitments. This question becomes problematic at very latest when employers specifically ask whether care for children or relatives in need of long-term care is ensured, since this is not a professional requirement.
The survey was conducted via telephone in the period from 15 November to 8 December 2017 by the Kantar EMNID polling institute. The participants were 976 interviewees from a representative sample of the population, who had had at least one job interview in the past five years.

The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (ADS for its initials in German) was established when the General Equal Treatment Act (German abbreviation: AGG) entered into force in August 2006. This Act aims to prevent or eliminate any discrimination on grounds of racism or ethnic origin, gender, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.