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HR Inclusive Policy Toolkit

Job Descriptions

Employers: before implementing any policies, please read our Introduction and Key Considerations.

Inclusive Job Descriptions: What does it mean?
  • Simply stated, an inclusive job description is created in a way that all applicants can apply for the job without feeling excluded or uncomfortable.  Special attention is given to the language used in the job description.  Avoid using gender specific words and jargon, consider literacy levels by keeping your sentences short, use white space in the document, and ensure that you communicate your commitment to diversity and inclusion.  

  • An inclusive job description is primarily competency-based, recognizing that the most critical information is not “how the job will be completed” rather, “if the employee can achieve the outcomes required.”         

  • With the substantial increase in technology and the advancement of diverse workforces, job structure and demands are often rapidly changing.  Individuals who experience disabilities have been required to innovate and think creatively in order to navigate their daily lives.  This level of adaptability and self-motivation needs to be taken into consideration when interviewing candidates. By remaining focused on the outcomes attached to a position, rather than a specific approach to completing a task, you will avoid unintentionally eliminating skilled candidates. 

Why is it important?
  • Job descriptions are more than a formal document needed to get the recruiting process started.  Candidates take them very seriously. A job description can unintentionally make certain groups of people feel like they are excluded from applying.

  • Ableism is a bias against people with disabilities, and it can be communicated in many ways.  In order to eliminate unconscious hiring bias towards people who experience a disability, it is valuable to make inclusivity a key part of your company’s development strategy. Without an ongoing commitment to learning and removing barriers, businesses will face challenges in attracting, hiring, and retaining workers who experience a disability.  For example, job related functions that identify the need to lift, push, pull, carry a minimum weight, can all serve to exclude some aspiring candidates with disabilities.  While these requirements might be critical for certain roles, in many positions they are not ‘essential’ to effectively completing the job. Unfortunately, language of this nature removes many qualified candidates from the applicant pool. 

  • Inclusive job descriptions can attract candidates with diverse backgrounds and experiences.

  • A job description that is not inclusive runs the risk of being open to a human rights or employment law challenge.

Sample Job Descriptions Policy

The following policy sample should be part of a larger job descriptions policy. This larger policy should also address any legislatively mandated job description requirements in your jurisdiction, the purpose of the policy, the scope of the policy’s application, who is responsible for administering which parts of the policy, and the procedures that must be followed under the policy. 

[Name of Organization] is committed to maintaining a workforce that demonstrates the values and visions of the organization, and hires employees who demonstrate the necessary skills and qualifications. Employees are made aware of the job skills, duties, and qualifications required through Job Descriptions and/or Performance Expectations.  Current Job Descriptions are maintained for all employees.

Putting it into Practice
  • Use the Hire for Talent “How to Write Inclusive Job Descriptions” resource at: www.hirefortalent.ca

  • Analyze the requirements listed and narrow them down to only the skills and qualities someone needs to be successful in the role. Focus less on what candidates need to have and more on what they need to achieve.

  • Write clearly and simply, using common words, a straightforward style and simple sentences. Avoid jargon, technical and legal language, and acronyms.

  • Be open to transferable skills.  Ask for ability wherever possible. Candidates can demonstrate ability through past achievements, including volunteer experience. For example, instead of “three years’ experience …” ask for “ability to … .”  Candidates can explain their skills or demonstrate them in practical tests.

  • There are certain occupations where having a specific disability may affect someone’s ability to do the job. These job requirements are known as bona fide job requirements, and an employer who can demonstrate that the requirement is a bona fide job requirement (which includes showing that accommodation is not possible) may rely on that requirement in assessing which employee can perform the job. 
     

Steps to Conducting a Job Analysis & Developing a Job Description

Job analysis refers to the process of identifying and determining the duties, responsibilities, and specifications of a given job.


Critical attention is required at this stage to ensure that the structure and requirements are not set up to be inherently discriminating. There are a couple of key considerations for employers during this stage:

  1. The first rule of thumb when determining a requirement is that it needs to be reasonably related to the job itself.

  2. The second key consideration is that a job requirement needs to be made in good faith - ‘bona fide’, be neutral and non-discriminatory.

For example, an employee’s ability to lift boxes of a certain weight can be considered in the context of what equipment is available and/or if the best safety practices around lifting have been incorporated. Many companies use lifting equipment to ensure the health of all their workers. In this light, the job requirement isn’t that the employee can lift a specific weight - the requirement is that the boxes can be safely stacked.


Another example is when an employer creates requirements around personal hygiene (e.g. must be clean shaven). If this applies to the food service industry, a successful applicant with a beard can be provided with the appropriate personal protective equipment.


These two examples demonstrate how the requirement must be reasonably related to the job itself, be neutral, and non-discriminatory.


To determine whether the requirement is bona fide (made in good faith, genuine) employers must consider if it was designed inclusively and if an accommodation would cause undue hardship. When completing job analysis and developing a job description employers may want to ask themselves:

  1. Is this standard/requirement reasonably connected to the job?

  2. Have alternative approaches been explored that can still meet our needs?

  3. Can we develop a standard/requirement that reflects differing capabilities?

  4. Does this standard/requirement take into account accommodations?

While often unintended, discriminatory hiring practices can begin within the processes of completing a job analysis and creating a job description.

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Canadian Association for Supported Employment

Tell us about new, innovative supported employment initiatives your organization is spearheading. Please send us your ideas or advice on how CASE can better serve you.

Email: contact@supportedemployment.ca

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