In today’s local economy we are experiencing declining labour market pools, an aging market and a shortage of skilled workers. Consequently, employers are looking for highly developed employees who can do the job coming out of the gate rather than looking at what they may have the potential of doing.

historically, interviews explored an applicant’s education, skills and experience. The wild card in the process came in determining that applicant’s fit with the organization, as well as their fit for the specific job for which they were being considered. The current trend we are seeing is employers asking about the “bona fide occupational requirements” of the job.

bona fide occupational requirements are the qualities or attributes associated with a job that employers are allowed to consider when making hiring decisions.These qualities or attributes, when considered in other contexts, might constitute discrimination and breach the intent of the human rights Act.

Consider the following scenario: you hire an employee who will be required to regularly lift up to 50lbs only to have that new employee provide you with a doctor’s note indicating that they cannot, in fact, lift because of a medical condition.

If you found yourself in a situation like this, it would mostly likely be because the recruiter failed to ask about the applicant’s ability to carry out bona fide occupational requirements during the formal interview. Without confirming an applicant’s ability to meet those occupational requirements, employers risk experiencing scheduling issues, gaps in operations, and perceived favouritism. If not managed correctly, employers might also face costly human rights complaints.

In Nova Scotia there are 14 Prohibited Grounds of Discrimination; age, race, colour, religion, creed, sex, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, irrational fear of contracting an illness or disease, ethnic/national/aboriginal orientation, family status, source of income, marital status, political belief or association with an individual or class of individuals.

Interview strategies should include bona fide occupational requirement questions. To be legal, those questions must directly tie the requirement- for example, a physical requirement- to the actual job duties as outlined within the job description. When formulated correctly, employees are bound to honestly answer bona fide occupational requirement questions, providing an assurance to the employer that they are making the best hiring decision, and alleviating the possibility of a human rights complaint.

Knowing and documenting the bona fide occupational requirements of the job, and respecting obligations set out within the human Rights Act, are necessary pillars of strong recruitment strategies and tools.

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