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Want to stay on the right side of the law? We support businesses and public authorities and help them to promote good practice.

Job descriptions

What you need to know

Writing job descriptions

As an employer, you should prepare written job descriptions for every post, accurately describing the genuinely essential duties of each one. Add to all job descriptions a duty that requires the post-holders to comply with your equal opportunities and harassment policies and procedures.

When considering the nature of the jobs in your organisation, how they will be performed and the content of the job descriptions, consider how you will provide:

Flexible working arrangements for staff members who may need them

Providing flexible working arrangements will promote equality of opportunity for many employees, especially for women, and will reduce the risk that disability discrimination and indirect forms of discrimination might arise. It is good practice to consider how you will provide flexible working arrangements when determining how a job will be performed and in developing the corresponding job description - see the employers guide to Flexible Working - The Law and Good Practice (pdf)

Reasonable adjustments for people who have disabilities

Some job-seekers and employees may have disabilities. When considering how a particular job will be performed and when developing the corresponding job description, you should consider whether your proposed job performance method may result in some classes of disabled persons being unable to perform the job in question, or whether they will only be able to do it with difficulty. If this outcome appears likely, then you should consider whether there are alternative ways to perform the job.

If it would be reasonable to make arrangements for the job to be performed in these alternative ways, then you should make them. For example, deaf or hearing-impaired job seekers may be able to use a work telephone modified with an amplifier or text telephone. By taking such considerations into account during the process of developing jobs and their corresponding job descriptions, and by making any relevant adjustments or arrangements at the early developmental stage, you will promote equality of opportunity for disabled job-seekers, and will reduce the potential that disability discrimination might arise later.

Recruiting People With Disabilities

We have produced new guidance on recruiting people with disabilities. This includes useful information about the reasonable adjustment duty, good practice and taking positive action. Read our guidance


What are genuine occupational requirements?

The law allows employers in some exceptional circumstances to specify that a job may only be carried out by a person who has a specific characteristic, for example, if they are a particular sex, religion or race. For example, a healthcare trust may be allowed to specify that a nursing job in a women-only hospital ward must be held by a woman.

If a genuine occupational requirement applies to a job in your organisation, draft this in the job description. However, you must ensure that certain legal conditions are satisfied. If you do not do this, then you will place yourself at a greater risk of committing an act of unlawful discrimination. Think very carefully before proceeding and contact the Equality Commission for advice.


What terms and language should I avoid using?

When drafting job descriptions, use language that is clear, simple and non-discriminatory.

Do not use job titles which have a distinctly male or female connotation. Instead, use job titles that are gender neutral, if possible. For example:

  • Waiting Staff instead of Waiter or Waitress
  • Sales Assistant/Person instead of Salesman or Salesgirl
  • Stores Person instead of Storeman

Do not use job titles which have an age-related connotation. The words ‘junior’ and ‘senior’ when used in job titles do not usually have an age-related connotation and are generally acceptable. However, there may be exceptions. For example, the job title of ‘Office Junior’ has an age-related connotation as this could reasonably indicate that an employer intends to fill the post with a recent school leaver, or another young person. It would be better to use an alternative job title such as ‘Office Clerk’ or ‘Administrative Assistant’.

When should I review job descriptions?

Review job documentation periodically, or before starting each fresh recruitment exercise to ensure that they continue to remain relevant to the jobs in question.


In conducting these reviews, you should seek to promote equality of opportunity by taking account of technical or other developments that affect the way the jobs may be performed. Also consider legal developments affecting employee rights or which expand the scope of anti-discrimination law and allow for organisational changes, flexible working arrangements and reasonable adjustments.

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