This morning, my memories of my experiences in recruiting staff myself prompted me to blogg about the legalities of actually demanding a would be employee to demonstrate that they are not an illegal immigrant. This in relation to Baroness Scotland’s recent faux pas ( Baroness Scotland – Did she look at the passport ?, and why it doesn’t matter ! )
It took only a matter of minutes for another aspect of the same recruitment experiences to be jogged into my memory by a blog which provided me with another insight that the ace journalists didn’t seem to have grasped. In this case it was Adam Boulton blogging (The Pill Question on his SkyNews blog) about Andrew Marr’s questions on his BBC Show on Sunday to the Prime Minister Gordon Brown (The Andrew Marr Show) asking him whether he takes prescription pain killers.
Adam makes quite a song dance about this clearly trying to claim the moral and journalistic high ground over Andrew Marr, but finally deciding that, yes – it was OK to ask this question because it is in the natural interest to find out if the Prime Minister is suffering from a health problem. He says :-
“My own view is that the physical and mental health of the national leader are legitimate areas of inquiry.
The American President publishes the results of his medical examinations and I don’t see why the British Prime Minister shouldn’t. We should know if there is a problem which is specifically affecting the way he or she does his job.”
Can’t quite see the moral high ground myself there Mr Boulton.
Before I get to why I disagree with him, I’d like to point out that the question wasn’t really about health – he wasn’t actually asked about his eye-sight, although Marr talked about it, and that’s also what the PM talked about – he was just asked about medication.
This was straight out of the top drawer of “Have you stopped beating your wife bishop ?” questioning. He might as well have been asked “Do you still do the odd couple of lines of coke Gordy ?” or “Is your erectile disfunction problem still as bad as it used to be ?”. Questions which are impossible to answer without generating a negative headline, and all just like Andrew Marr’s question, thrown apropos of nothing in particular (other than smear campaigns on right wing websites).
It was interesting in fact how within minutes of this interview it was being reported via Twitter that he’d been asked not about pain killers but about anti-depressants. Compounded by the now re-edited piece Should Marr Have Asked THAT Question? – on Ian Dale’s blog. Which seemed to draw on the long running and apparently totally fictitious rumour on several right wing blogs that the Prime Minister is suffering from depression and god knows what other mental illnesses.
How convenient for them to make this error (and whether Iain Dale removed the reference or not, his good friend Guido Fawkes clearly didn’t worry about the smear on the “Prime Mentalist”).
Anyway – how does my experience recruiting staff in schools relate to this issue ? Well clearly sometimes people apply for jobs with illnesses or other medical conditions which make it very difficult to actually do the job in practice. Which is why on recruiting we place a health questionnaire in with the application forms.
Thing is though, I never see those forms – they are placed in a sealed envelope and sent directly to our Occupational Health advisers (if the candidate is appointed). They read the form, they sometimes talk to the person, they some times ask them to go for a medical, rarely they seek permission to speak with their doctor.
After all this they send me a letter which says simply “This person is fit for employment” – or “This person is not fit for employment” or “This person is fit for employment subject to the following guidance …”
If health problems crop up at a later date I can ask about them, but the employee does not have to tell me. I can refer to Occupational Health and they can write to doctors (having gained written permission from the employee) to ask for further information about health problems.
The bottom line is – Yes – health is important to a persons ability to do the job, but unless I have advice that I need to make adjustments due to a persons health, or that they are unfit to do the job, then the patient’s (employee’s) health – including treatment and medication is entirely confidential.
and I really can’t see why that should be any different for a teacher, a classroom assistant, or any other person – including the Prime Minister
So in my book that goes for Adam Boulton, and Andrew Marr as well :
Gordon Brown’s prescriptions from his doctor are confidential.
That means that they are none of your business !
Just a quick one.
The story about Baroness Scotland employing an illegal immigrant continues to rumble on. Now the Mail claims that the “illegal” in question says that Baroness Scotland never looked at her passport. So who’s the liar ?
First of all (ignoring the possibility that the “illegal” may not be an absolutely reliable witness given that the antics of Baroness Scotland may well be about to get her deported) the issue of whether she looked at the passport is an irrelevance, Baroness Scotland has already pleaded guilty to the offence. She admits she made no record of her checks. So in a legal sense, she didn’t make any – not proper ones, and they are the only ones which count.
However as someone who has employed rather a few people who have had overseas passports it does cross my mind whether she’d have been allowed to look at the passport in the first place.
If you are taking on an employee, it’s generally considered OK to ask for :
- Evidence of a person’s identity
- Evidence of their eligibility to work in the UK
However it’s not considered OK to make extensive investigations as to whether a person is an illegal immigrant or not – that’s not an employers job. It’s considered discriminatory if a potential employee is subjected to checks and inquiries in excess of those that you would make for any other applicant – for instance a white middle class man with a home counties accent.
So in general, if a person can prove who they are – perhaps with a driving licence and a utilities bill to name two commonly accepted methods, has two bona fide references from previous employers, and also has a document showing proof of National Insurance number (and this is a permanent NI number not beginning with the letter ‘T’) then it would be unreasonable to go asking for passports. You could and should assume that the NI number was issued after exhaustive procedures to establish entitlement.
So it would be quite possible to do normal checks without ever seeing a passport. Not without seeing a National Insurance number though – and one does wonder whether the lady in question had one.
As to whether Baroness Scotland knew that or whether she did any of that, I’ve no idea – but she’s admitted her wrongdoing – and that makes the Mail’s campaign irrelevant.
Makes you think though doesn’t it.
Personally I think what she’s done is trivial and fairly unimportant, she’s a politician not a Human Resources expert.
I do however feel that she should be aware of this in her position, and that even in the case of relatively trivial offences, the office of Attorney General needs to be so far above reproach, that the only honourable course of action for her is to hand in her resignation.