Education to Employment Education to Employment

Section 6: What are inherent requirements? How do they relate to graduate employment?

This Section provides some useful explanations of the term 'inherent requirements', examples of what these might be, and provides details of how inherent requirements could be determined.

This information should be considered a guide only and not legal advice.

What does inherent requirements of a job mean?

Inherent requirements are the essential activities of the job: the core duties that must be carried out in order to fulfil the purpose of a position. They do not refer to all of the requirements of a job, but rather contrast with peripheral or non-essential tasks, which may be negotiable and flexible. Inherent requirements relate to results, or what must be accomplished, rather than means, or how it is accomplished.

The inherent requirements of a job are:

  • the fundamental tasks that define a job or category of jobs and that must be carried out in order to get the job done
  • not all of the requirements of a job
  • about achieving results rather than the means for achieving a result.

Reference: Equal Opportunity in the NSW Public Sector website of Department of Premier and Cabinet, (as cited on 31 October 2008).

In the Australian Human Rights Commission's view, inherent requirements need to be determined in the circumstances of each job. Only the inherent requirements of a job should be considered in determining a person's ability to do the job. They may include the ability to perform the tasks or functions which are a necessary part of the job and to work safely. A person who cannot work safely does not meet the inherent requirements of the job. Inherent requirements may include:

  • the ability to perform the tasks or functions which are a necessary part of the job
  • productivity and quality requirements
  • the ability to work effectively in the team or other type of work organisation concerned
  • the ability to work safely.

Reference: Australian Human Rights Commission website, as cited on 4 June 2010.

If a person with disability can perform the core activities or 'inherent requirements' of a job, then that person should have the same opportunity to do the job as anyone else.

Reference: Australian Employer's Network on Disability's Manager's Guide: Disability in the Workplace (not dated)

What are examples of inherent requirements in graduate employment?

Illustrated examples of job duties which are and are not inherent requirements
Not an inherent requirement:An example of inherent requirement:
Ability to type 50 words per minuteThe ability to produce professional standard reports within a set timeframe

A person with dexterity impairment could use speech recognition software to produce reports without typing on a keyboard.
Own transportExtensive travel required

A person with disability who does not drive could use public transport or taxis.
Heavy liftingAbility to move large pieces of equipment

A person with disability could use adaptive equipment to move heavy objects without physically lifting them.
Good telephone speaking mannerAbility to communicate effectively with customers

A person who is deaf and does not speak could use email, instant messaging or TTY to communicate effectively with customers.

Reference: Australian Employer's Network on Disability's 'Manager's Guide: Disability in the Workplace'.

How should an employer work out the inherent requirements of a position?

As indicated by the former Human Right and Equal Opportunity Commission's (now the Australian Human Rights Commission) decision in Woodhouse v Wood Coffill Funerals relevant factors may include (not in any particular order):

  • the essential tasks required in practice by an employer. A duty from a job description that is not actually performed in the 'real life' of a job may be found to not be an inherent requirement;
  • duties which are not ordinarily performed on a day-to-day basis but could be necessary in emergencies or peak periods;
  • the essential outcome of a duty, rather than the way a duty is performed;
  • the particular circumstances of a job could determine that some tasks are essential, even though in the same job but different circumstance the task is not essential (or vice versa);
  • applicable Awards or agreements (including competency standards) could (but not conclusively) determine that a specific task is essential;
  • any terms of a written duty statement may be considered an inherent requirement, although it still needs to be demonstrated that the task is essential and required in practice; and/or
  • any mandatory requirements of the employer by other laws.

Reference: Australian Human Rights Commission website, as cited on 4 June 2010.

What about workplace health and safety? Is the ability to perform the job healthily and safely an inherent requirement?

Yes, it is an inherent requirement to be able to perform the core activities of a job in a way that meets Work, Health and Safety (WHS) requirements. However, the employer is obliged to be able to demonstrate a thorough process was undertaken to objectively and reliably assess whether there are any reasonable workplace adjustments possible to allow the employee to work safely.

What about registration or licence requirements? Do the relevant bodies consider whether the graduate's disability affects their capacity to perform inherent requirements?

Some professional registration or licensing bodies will require the applicant to report whether they have any disability or medical condition. These agencies will use the information provided by the applicant to determine whether they are able to practice in the field to the standards required.

Some registration or licensing bodies may apply a restriction on the area of practice that the graduate may work in based on information about their disability.

Registration and licensing agencies are subject to the same anti-discrimination legislation as employers. Therefore, they are obliged to only use the measure of inherent requirements and the consideration of reasonable adjustments.

How could an understanding of the concept of inherent requirements affect my practices as an employment or career service practitioner?

The following are suggestions on how employment and career service practitioners could use a general understanding of inherent requirements to provide better quality support to students and graduates with disability:

  • Encourage students and graduates with disability to consider early in their transition planning the general tasks involved in an industry and whether their disability would be likely to affect their capacity to meet the anticipated inherent requirements.
  • Facilitate the student or graduate to talk directly with a professional already working in their field about activities that would be considered core and not.
  • As part of the student or graduate's career planning, encourage them to think about whether they will require any workplace adjustments to meet the anticipated inherent requirements and, if so what these may be (see Section 7 on workplace adjustments).
  • If appropriate, consult with the university or TAFE's disability service to find out whether any particular adjustments had been made during any practical, field or clinical placements when the student was completing the course.
  • Keep in mind that the person with disability has the right to reasonable workplace adjustments to help them effectively meet the inherent requirements and that a huge range of adjustments are now possible due to technological advances.
  • Recommend that the student or graduate investigate as early as possible any registration or licensing requirements and any affect their disability may have in being registered or licensed.
  • Remember registration and licensing bodies are also subject to anti-discrimination obligations and can only exclude a person because of their disability where they can demonstrate the person is unable to meet inherent requirements even with reasonable adjustments.
  • Incorporate into the student's career and/or employment seeking plan consideration of likely inherent requirements; and the critical concern of whether they need or wish to disclose their disability (see Section 8 on disability disclosure). This includes considering when to disclose, how to disclose, and who to disclose to.
  • Support the graduate to predict any employer concerns, prior to applying for any graduate programs or employment, about them being unable to perform the job. Help them develop constructive ways to address the potential fears of graduate employers.


Australian Human Rights Commission website at as cited on 4 June 2010.

Diversity at Work website as cited on 31 October 2008.

'Business Benefits of Hiring People with Disability Fact Sheet' by Australian Network on Disability as cited on website at as cited on 30 May 2010

Job Access website and Australian Government Initiative  as cited on 4 June 2010

'Manager's Guide to Disability in the Workplace' by Australian Employers Network on Disability' (now known as Australian Network on Disability), undated.