I recently started a new role as a software developer in England. For over the weekend, I was given the usual start-of-job questions to answer from HR, such as bank details, emergency contacts etc. There was one question however that I've never been asked before in this situation; it was 'how many children do you have and what are their ages?'.

The company will sometimes send those more senior than me to other countries, potentially for up to months at a time, but I was assured that someone in my role would never be asked to do that. My thoughts were that if I had people at home who depended on me, I would likely protest at being sent away for so long, though this would not apply to me. I do however, have an older relative in my part-time care. This was brought up at the interview and I was assured by my now-manager that it would not be an issue (this time is spent outside of normal work hours).

My questions are; why might a company need to have information about an employee's children, and is it worth mentioning / reminding the company that I have a dependant, just not a child?

  • 6
    tax purposes, most likely. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Apr 14 '17 at 13:02
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    Insurance potentially? – enderland Apr 14 '17 at 13:04
  • Ask them if you are uncomfortable with it, company specific I think so probably off topic for this site – Kilisi Apr 14 '17 at 13:09
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    We can only guess, you're going to have to ask your contact at that company what they use that information for and what qualifies as a dependent. – Lilienthal Apr 14 '17 at 13:35
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    This information is required when the company registers you into a pension fund with an insurance for your 'survivors' – user8036 Apr 14 '17 at 14:00

I think you should answer exactly what the question is and it is only about the children not about the dependents.

'how many children do you have and what are their ages?'

Most of the time these are just standard forms and questionnaires which vary from company to company. It may or may not be connected to your job role all the time. (Like in my last research job one question was are you licensed to drive heavy vehicles? and it had nothing to do with my job!) There is no point in reading between the lines. Instead just answer exactly to the point and what is asked.

Regarding your fear about being sent overseas with one dependent at home, this should be cleared with your manager and looks like you have already done that during the interview. What you write in your on-boarding forms may not really impact your travel duties anyway. I do not think there is a need to remind them again if you have already done that once. In future if travel or any other situation comes up which takes away time from your other responsibilities, you can remind them of this discussion again.