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Are employers allowed to ask an applicant at a recruitment interview if they have minor children or disabled or elderly family members they must look after?

No. Information on whether the job applicant is a parent or whether they care for someone else doesn’t show whether the person is suitable for work or whether they are able to work well. Contemporary parents have a wide range of options to deal with even the most difficult situations, and having many children doesn’t necessarily mean that the employee would be absent from work due to illness more than a childless colleague. Therefore, the employer may not ask such questions (subsections 11 (1) and (2) of the Employment Contracts Act). If an employer’s attitude or perception is that a worker cannot work well enough because of family obligations, this can lead to discrimination.

The employer must hire the best employee for the job, and therefore can only select people on the basis of their skills, knowledge, experience and personal qualities. The family obligations of a job applicant cannot be part of the selection criteria.

The family obligations specified in the Gender Equality Act and the Equal Treatment Act include, among others, the duty to care for family members (clause 3 (1) 3) of the Gender Equality Act). If an applicant is overlooked when an employee is selected or hired or they are treated less favourably in any other manner because of parenting or other family obligations, this is deemed discriminatory (clause 6 (2) 1) of the Gender Equality Act).

An employer may not justify asking applicants about their minor children on the grounds that they need the information to grant the employee parental leave or additional parental leave for a disabled child (clause 6 (2) 3) of the Personal Data Protection Act). An employer may only ask for this from an employee they have already hired.

§ 11 of the Employment Contracts Act
Clauses 3 (1) 3) and 6 (2) 1) of the Gender Equality Act
Subsection 2 (3) of the Equal Treatment Act

This explanation does not constitute legal aid in a specific case. Therefore, if you feel that you have been treated unequally, but you did not find a solution to your problem in this article, or if you have a question, please contact the Equality Commissioner by e-mail at avaldus@volinik.ee or telephone +372 626 9059. The anonymity of the person is guaranteed when contacting the Commissioner.