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GUIDANCE ON WRITING JOB DESCRIPTIONS PERSON SPECIFICATIONS
1. A job description is a key document in the recruitment process, and must be finalised prior to taking any other steps in the process. It should clearly and accurately set out the duties and responsibilities of the job and must include:
- the job title (which must be sex and age neutral)
- the location of the job i.e. department/faculty/division/research group
- grade of the post
- the post to whom the postholder is responsible
- any posts reporting to the postholder
- main purpose of the job
- main duties and responsibilities
- any special working conditions (e.g., unsocial or shift working patterns, the requirement - for clinical posts - to obtain health clearance from an NHS Trust, the requirement for a criminal record check)
2. Items that should be included in job descriptions are:
- A note that indicates that, as duties and responsibilities change, the job description will be reviewed and amended in consultation with the postholder
- An indication that the postholder will carry out any other duties as are within the scope, spirit and purpose of the job as requested by the line manager or Head of Department/Division
- A statement that the postholder will actively follow UCL policies including Equal Opportunities policies
- An indication that the postholder will maintain an awareness and observation of Fire and Health & Safety Regulations
3. The language in job descriptions should:
- Avoid jargon and unexplained acronyms and abbreviations
- Be readily understandable to potential applicants for the post. The Plain English Campaign can proof documents for accessibility and plain, effective English
- Avoid ambiguity about responsibilities and be clear about the postholder's accountability for resources, staff, etc.
- Use inclusive language - for advice on non-discriminatory language see UCL's 'Guide to non-discriminatory Language'.
Sample job descriptions can be found in Appendix B.
4. The person specification is of equal importance to the job description and informs the selection decision. The person specification details the skills, experience, abilities and expertise that are required to do the job. It should be drawn up after the job description and, with the job description, should inform the content of the advert. The person specification should be specific, related to the job, and not unnecessarily restrictive - for example only qualifications strictly needed to do the job should be specified. The inclusion of criteria that cannot be justified as essential for the performance of the job may be deemed discriminatory under discrimination law, if these impact disproportionately to the disadvantage of specific groups.
5. The person specification must form part of the further particulars of a vacancy along with the job description in order that applicants have a full picture of what the job entails. The person specification enables potential applicants to make an informed decision about whether to apply and those who do apply, to give sufficient relevant detail of their skills and experience in their application. The person specification forms the basis of the selection decision and enables the selection panel to ensure objectivity in their selection. Sample person specifications can be found in Appendix B.
6. UCL has agreed a set of management competencies which should inform the person specification for staff with management responsibilities ('Competency Expectations of Post Holders with Management Responsibilities'). Similarly, UCL has outlined a range of expectations which should inform the person specification for all academic, research, and teaching staff ('Excellence and the UCL community: a shared endeavour'). When developing the person specification, the recruiting manager will include the relevant competencies and expectations.
Elements of the Person Specification
7. The person specification details the:
- knowledge (including necessary qualifications)
- skills and abilities
required to do the job, specifying which are essential and which are desirable; these may be different from the attributes of the previous postholder.
8. Essential criteria are those without which an appointee would be unable to adequately perform the job; Desirable criteria are those that may enable the candidate to perform better or require a shorter familiarisation period.
9. Criteria which are subjective and for which little evidence is likely to be obtained through the selection process must be avoided (for example, 'a flexible approach' is often too vague to be of any help in the selection process).
10. There are a wide variety of educational, vocational and professional qualifications (together with their foreign equivalents); for some jobs a particular qualification may be essential, while for others no single qualification may be most appropriate and experience may be of just as much importance as a formal qualification. Where qualifications are deemed essential these should reflect the minimum basic educational requirements necessary to carry out the job to an acceptable standard.
11. Where a qualification is stated as essential this must be fully met by the successful candidate before a certificate of sponsorship is issued, where required. E.g. if a PhD is listed as essential someone almost completing, or subject to viva will not be deemed to fully meet the essential qualification.
12. Candidates will increasingly have National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs). The qualifications recognise the achievement of employment-led standards of competence. Where possible, requirements for specific employment competence should be expressed in terms of possession of the relevant NVQ at the required level.
13. The type of experience applicants are required to have should be specified; however, stipulating length of experience required should be not be used as this may be challenged under the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006. Quality of experience is more important and a better arbiter of suitability than length of experience.
14. Note skills and experience are not distributed evenly cross the population and on account of past discrimination, black and minority ethnic candidates, women, disabled or older people maybe underrepresented in some areas. This could constitute indirect discrimination if a selection criterion has a detrimental impact on one sex, or ethnic group or by reason of age or disability and cannot be shown to be justifiable. Note therefore that experience can often be transferable from one area of work to another, in which case skills may be more important than a narrow definition of experience.
15. It may be necessary to specify "availability to attend evening meetings" or "possession of a driving licence", but you should distinguish between need and convenience and weigh up need against discriminatory effect.
16. Remember the possibility of adaptations or aids to enable a disabled person to fulfil a requirement. It is important to be clear about what needs to be achieved in the role, not the means to achieve it.
17. Positive Action statements should also be included on adverts
Genuine Occupational Requirement (GOR)
18. The standard GOR is where an employer is allowed when recruiting for a post to treat job applicants differently on the grounds of gender, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, or religion, or belief, if possessing a particular sexual orientation, or religion, or belief is a genuine occupational requirement (GOR) for that post. This must be a genuine and determining factor, BUT it cannot be used to discriminate. An employer may also rely on this exception when promoting, transferring or training persons for a post.
19. Direct discrimination occurs where a person is treated less favourably than others would be in the same circumstances on grounds of sex and/or race or a married person is treated less favourably on account of their marital status, including civil partnership status, than an unmarried period of the same sex or on the grounds of their disability, age, religion or belief of sexual orientation (perceived or actual).
20. Indirect discrimination may occur if a provision, criterion or practice is applied which adversely affects one racial or sex group or by means of their disability, age, religion or belief or sexual orientation (perceived or actual) more than another and cannot be justified; that there was no intention to discriminate is irrelevant. Imposing an age limit on applicants may be indirectly discriminatory if, for example, fewer women than men can comply because they have spent time child rearing.
21. Harassment may occur where a person subjects another to harassment where s/he engages in unwanted conduct which has the purpose or effect of:
(a) violating that other person's dignity, or
(b) creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for her/him,
and in the perception of that other person, it should reasonably be considered as having that effect.
Harassment is expressly prohibited in the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, the Disability discrimination Act 2005 and the Equality Act 2006.
22. Victimisation if a person is treated less favourably if they have brought, or given evidence in a case of discrimination. This is unlawful.
23. Complaints of unlawful discrimination in employment may be made to the Employment Tribunals which, if they find in favour of the applicant, may order, by way of remedy, compensation (in respect of which there is no upper limit) to be paid to the complainant. The EHRC may also carry out formal investigations and make recommendations on matters related to their areas of responsibility and may issue non-discrimination notices.
24. A job applicant can also make a claim to an employment tribunal. It is not necessary for them to have been employed by UCL to make a claim of discrimination
Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and Race Relations Act 1976
25. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA) and the Race Relations Act 1976 (RRA) make unlawful direct and unjustifiable indirect discrimination on grounds of sex, marital status and race. They are supported by Codes of Practice produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Complementing the SDA is the Equal Pay Act 1970, which is intended to prevent discrimination between men and women with respect to the terms of their employment. The provisions of the EC Equal Treatment Directive are also concerned to ensure that there shall be no discrimination on grounds of sex, marital or family status. The Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 and Equality Act 2006 also place a positive duty on UCL to promote equality of opportunity and positive attitudes.
Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and 2005
26. The Disability Discrimination Act makes it unlawful to discriminate against disabled people in the provision of jobs, services and property. The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 also places a positive duty on UCL to promote equality of opportunity between disabled people and others and to promote positive attitudes towards disabled people. Disability is defined by the Act as a physical or mental impairment, which has a substantial and long term (that is lasting or expected to last for at least 12 months).
27. It is unlawful to discriminate against disabled people:
- in the arrangements made for entering employment
- in the terms on which employment is offered
- by a deliberate refusal to offer employment
- in the opportunities for promotion, training and other benefits
- by applying some other detriment
28. Subject to practical and financial considerations, the Act also imposes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to premises or arrangements which might place disabled people at a substantial disadvantage.
The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations and (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 and (Age) Regulations (2006).
29. The Employment Directives prohibits discrimination in employment in the context of sexual orientation, religion or belief, and age.
30. Religion or belief, is defined as any religion, religious or similar philosophical belief. It does not include political belief. A recent Employment Appeal Tribunal pre hearing review in Grainger PLC & Others v Nicholson (2009) has expanded the potential definition of philosophical belief whereby it has deemed that a belief in man-made climate change is capable, if genuinely held, of being a philosophical belief for the purpose of the Religion or Belief Regulations 2003.
31. Sexual orientation, is defined as an orientation towards persons of the same sex, opposite sex or both sexes. It is not necessary to disclose sexual orientation when bringing a claim and it is possible to bring a claim if you are discriminated against on the basis that you are perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, whether or not you are.
32. Age, the Age Regulations outlaw age discrimination in employment and vocational training. Vocational training covers not just training in the workplace, but all training that contributes to employability, so all courses offered by universities.
33. The Regulations will apply to both young and old people.
- Age discrimination will be unlawful unless is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim and can be objectively justified.
- The default retirement age will be 65.
- No age criteria should be used in recruitment, promotion, training, pay or benefits unless justified.
- Awards for damages will be unlimited in successful tribunal cases.
Page last amended : November 2009