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Learning Portal - Career: Non-essential vs. Essential Duties

Non-essential vs. Essential Duties


Every job has both duties that are essential requirements of the job (essential duties), and duties that are more flexible or optional (non-essential duties). Having an understanding of what the essential and non-essential duties of a job are will help you decide whether or not you’d like to disclose your disability and/or ask for accommodations to help you be more successful in the workplace.

An inclusive employer will be able to tell the difference between essential and non-essential duties, but in case they can’t, take a look at the following definitions so that you can start to identify this for yourself during your job search.

What are essential job duties?

What are essential job duties?

Video by The Learning Portal Ontario, 2020

Essential duties

These duties are critical and fundamental responsibilities of the position. You must be able to perform these functions either with or without reasonable accommodation. Ask yourself, “What are the parts of the job that are required and can be modified if needed?

A duty is considered essential if one of the following is true:

  • The position exists to perform the duty, e.g. the job of firefighter exists to put out fires.

  • A limited number of employees can perform the duty, e.g. updating the website when no one else in the organization can do so.

  • The duty is highly specialized, e.g. using a specific programming language.

Non-essential duties

These duties are performed either very infrequently or could be performed by others without altering the underlying reason the job exists. An example is replacing a heavy water jug. Ask yourself:

  • Are there non-essential parts of the job that can be removed?

Did You Know?

Disclosure is not always necessary if the disability you have has no effect on the duties of the role you are applying for or are currently working in. However, having an understanding of what the essential and non-essential duties of a job are, will help you decide whether or not you would like to disclose your disability and ask for accommodations.


Unless otherwise stated, the material in this guide is from the Learning Portal created by College Libraries Ontario. Content has been adapted for the GPRC Learning Commons in June 2021. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons BY NC SA 4.0 International License.

All icons on these pages are from The Noun Project. See individual icons for creator attribution. 

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