What are genuine occupational requirements? (GOR)

Define Genuine Occupational Requirement (GOR)

A “genuine occupational requirement” (GOR) is a protection in today’s laws about race, religion or belief, age, and sexual orientation. This lets an employer say that because of the nature of the job, only people of a particular ethnicity, religion, age, etc. are qualified. There is no “GOR” defence for sex, gender reassignment, or country, but there are “genuine occupational qualifications” (GOQs) that serve a similar purpose. For example, the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 has GOQs about the provision of personal support services and when it is necessary to protect decency or privacy.

The Equality Act gets rid of the specific GOQs and adds a new general work requirement test for all protected grounds, including disability (this only applies to direct and indirect discrimination). With the new test, the job requirement doesn’t have to be “genuine and determining,” as it did before. However, the Explanatory Notes to the Act say that “the requirement must be essential to the post and not just one of several important factors.” Even if having a particular characteristic is a requirement for the job, the employer must still show that the rule is a “reasonable way to reach a legitimate goal.”

Below are some instances:

  • For reasons of privacy or decency, a public change room attendant might need to be the same gender as the people using the room.
  • An organisation for deaf people could legally hire a deaf person who uses British Sign Language to help other deaf people whose first or main language is BSL.
  • If an outreach worker was a man, unemployed Muslim women cannot use his services to assist them find work
  • The Act contains the current particular defences for organised religions and institutions with a religious or belief-based ethos, however, they are worded slightly differently (which is unlikely to have any real impact).

In Reality

Employers who now rely on a particular GOQ will need to evaluate their hiring and promotion standards to make sure that any confidentiality requirements are covered by the new general occupational requirement test. Is it a proportionate way of reaching a lawful goal and is it an occupational need? Existing employees who were hired or promoted in accordance with a legitimate GOQ are unaffected.

You must be absolutely certain that a GOR truly applies to the role that is being offered before you post your job ad. That’s because you’ll need to demonstrate that your discriminatory treatment was appropriate if a discrimination claim is made against you. Always consider whether it is required to target a certain group in order to complete a task that is necessary to the role. 

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