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People and Culture

What does "inherent requirements" mean?

Employers must offer equal employment opportunities to everyone. This means that if a person with a disability can do the essential activities or "inherent requirements" of a job, he or she should have just as much chance to do that job as anyone else.  An employer, however, is not obliged by the Disability Discrimination Act to change the inherent requirements of a job to suit an employee.

The Australian Human Rights Commission proposes that inherent requirements need to be determined in the circumstances of each job. They 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.


For instance, an essential activity or "inherent requirement" for a Receptionist's job is the ability to communicate by telephone. But it is not an "inherent requirement' to hold the phone in the hand.  Accordingly an accommodation of providing a headset to a Receptionist would enable them to perform the duties required.

Example 1:
A nurse who has a hearing impairment experiences difficulty in measuring patient’s heartbeats, this is an inherent requirement of the job.  The nurse is provided with an electronic stethoscope that permits her to set volume levels, thereby allowing her to accurately measure a patient’s heartbeat as required.   The accommodation of providing an electronic stethoscope enables her to perform the essential requirement of the job.

Example 2:
A Security Guard may be required to run in emergency situations.  Although this may not be required on a regular basis, it is an essential requirement of the job.  If a security guard develops a heart condition that does not allow for high levels of physical exertion, this person would be unable to undertake this aspect of the inherent requirements of the job.  Consequently, work as a security guard would not be appropriate, as running is an inherent part of the job requirement.  There are no reasonable accommodations that could be made in this circumstance, which would allow the person to perform the required task in a manner which ensures their own safety and that of other members of the team and the community.

This person would need to investigate other job options that would be appropriate.  Their employer is not legally obligated to find an alternate job for the person.  The Disability Discrimination Act does not make it unlawful to dismiss, or refuse to employ a person who cannot perform the inherent requirements of the job.

In some cases, independent medical or other relevant expert evidence may be highly desirable as a means of resolving concern about whether a person can perform job requirements

© Curtin University of Technology. Except as permitted by the Copyright Act 1968, this material may not be reproduced, stored or transmitted without the permission of the copyright owner. All enquiries must be directed to the  Curtin Staff Disability Advisor ext 9090. This material does not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  Except to the extent mandated otherwise by legislation, Curtin University does not accept responsibility for the consequences of any reliance which may be placed on this material by any person.