Asking your employer questions about discrimination
This page sets out when and why you might ask your employer to answer written questions to establish a claim for discrimination.
What is a discrimination questionnaire?
Prior to 2014 there was a statutory questionnaire procedure for obtaining information from respondents in discrimination claims. Workers were able to serve a standard form on their employers, asking questions about discrimination. Employers were under no obligation to reply, but a Tribunal could draw an inference of discrimination if they failed to do so. The statutory procedure has now been abolished but it is still possible to ask employers questions and Acas has issued guidance on how this can be done.
Questionnaires are used by workers to get information from their employers about their claim (which can be used either before they bring their claim, or once it has been issued at an Employment Tribunal). It may be helpful to ask questions to gather evidence about policies and practices in the workplace. The purpose is to help the worker identify why they have been treated in the way they have and therefore whether they may have been discriminated against. Questions may help establish what type of discrimination they have suffered and evidence to show that there has been discrimination as alleged.
If you are considering bringing a tribunal claim, you may want to submit your questions early in the process, to get an idea of the strength of your claim. However, you can also submit questions to your employer after the start of proceedings.
When submitting questions to your employer you should provide the following information:
Ask the employer to respond in a reasonable time frame – depending on the type and amount of information you have requested. One week may be insufficient, but eight weeks would usually be plenty of time for a response.
If you are serving a questionnaire to decide whether to bring a claim, don’t forget that the time limits are running – you need to start a discrimination claim in three months less one day from the act of discrimination.
If the Respondent fails to reply to questions or replies evasively, a Tribunal can still take this into account when making a decision in a discrimination claim. In practice, many Respondents do reply, at least partially, as they fear their silence might be misinterpreted.
A Tribunal also has the power to order that questions be answered as part of legal proceedings.
In some cases there are other ways of obtaining replies to questions, such as making requests under the General Data Protection Act Regulations and the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (the subject access request procedure), which is often a very powerful tool.
This advice applies in England, Wales and Scotland . If you live in another part of the UK, the law may differ. Please call our helpline for more details.
You may find it helpful to look at an example of a completed Questionnaire.