When an employer may make a decision based on age, race or another protected characteristic

When a protected characteristic is crucial for a job

In rare cases an employer might be able to prove an applicant needs a certain protected characteristic (such as a person's sex or religion) to do a particular job. This is known as an 'occupational requirement'.

For it to be an occupational requirement, both of the following must also apply:

  • the protected characteristic is essential for and relates to the main tasks of the job
  • the employer can prove it has a good business reason ('objective justification')

Find out more about objective justification.

Examples could include:

  • a refuge for women who've experienced domestic violence advertises for a female support worker, as the residents would feel safer if the worker is female
  • the Catholic church advertises for a priest who's Catholic 

If the employer believes there's an occupational requirement and advertises the job again later, they must check the requirement is still within the law. For example, they could take legal advice. 

When the protected characteristic is religion or belief

The law on discrimination can be complex. Find out more about religion or belief discrimination (PDF, 492KB, 26 pages).

It's a good idea to get legal advice before making a decision that relates to a protected characteristic.