A detailed job description is the cornerstone of many human resources objectives; sourcing and hiring qualified people, guaranteeing effective performance management, and ensuring compliance with labor laws or collective bargaining agreements. A well-crafted job description can be useful in attracting and retaining qualified employees with disabilities, and should contain detail beyond what is included in a vacancy announcement.
The process of writing formal job descriptions can help employers identify and isolate the essential functions of a position, as well as the marginal ones. A complete and thorough job description can also be indispensable if an employee requests a disability-related accommodation.
The job description should be utilized at the start of the interactive process between the employer and the employee to identify the critical components of the job, determine which of those components need to be accommodated, and discuss potential accommodations that are both reasonable and effective in enabling the employee to be successful in the position.
At minimum, a job description should contain the following elements:
- Job title
- Salary range
- Specification of supervisory authority
- Essential functions
- Marginal functions
- Physical requirements
- Minimum qualifications
A job description that covers more than just basic information can be a useful tool throughout the employment process. Additional details can help job candidates identify whether the position would be a good match, and employers can use the position description as a tool in assessing work performance. These additional elements include:
- Environmental Factors: Describe the environment an individual will encounter in performing the position. Consider the total environment, and imagine it from the perspective of a new employee. Are the lights bright or dim? Is the work area busy and noisy, or quiet and isolated? Consider such factors as air quality, and any materials that need to be handled on a regular basis. This element may be especially important for OSHA compliance.
- A Comprehensive Break Down of Physical Requirements: Describe both the obvious and less-obvious physical requirements of a position. Examples of requirements might include: lifting requirements, including weight and frequency of such lifting; hours per day to be spent standing, sitting or walking; and hours per day spent typing, leaning over an assembly line, etc.
- Schedule and Location: The preferred schedule and number of hours worked per week should be stated explicitly. If there is an option for flexibility, a statement to that effect could also be included. Describe whether the employee is expected to report to work in a specific location, or if telework is an option. Attendance can be considered an essential function when required to perform the job. Being clear about this requirement from the outset can help prevent difficult conversations in the future.
It is important to note that to be effective, job descriptions must be provided to employees and reviewed and updated regularly.
For more information, read these EARN publications:
- Encouraging Applicants with Disabilities: Job Descriptions and Announcements (Checklist)
- Encouraging Applicants with Disabilities: Job Descriptions and Announcements (Checklist Explainer)
- Company Website Disability Inclusion Messaging: Observations of Job Seekers with Disabilities
The Mid-Atlantic Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Center also offers a video on writing job descriptions.