Discrimination in employment because of a person’s age or disability is against the law in many circumstances.

However, it may not be unlawful to refuse to employ a person if, because of their age or disability, they are unable to carry out the inherent requirements – or essential duties – of the job.

The inherent requirements of a job will vary depending on what the job is. They may include:

  • the ability to perform tasks which are essential to perform a job productively and to the required quality
  • the ability to work effectively in a team or other organisation
  • the ability to work safely.

It is the responsibility of the employer to clearly spell out the essential duties of the position being advertised and what type of work the employee is expected to do.

Example: A young person may not be able to meet the inherent requirements of a courier job if they are not yet eligible for a driver’s licence.

If a person is able to perform the inherent requirements of a job and is the best person for the job, they should be offered the position.

People with disabilities or health conditions must be assessed on their current ability to do the job – not on assumptions about how their disability or health condition may have affected them in the past or may affect them in the future.

If a person with a disability cannot perform the inherent requirements of a job because of the disability, the employer must consider how the person with a disability could be provided with reasonable adjustments to help them do the job.

Example: A person with a prosthetic foot was dismissed from their position at a funeral parlour because they could not carry coffins as smoothly as other employees. Carrying coffins was an inherent requirement of the job. However, with a small amount of training, the employee could have carried out this requirement to the appropriate standard. The dismissal was found to be disability discrimination.