Ask LH: Can An Employer Require Me To Have A Driver’s Licence?

Ask LH: Can An Employer Require Me To Have A Driver’s Licence?
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Dear Lifehacker, I am short-sighted and cannot obtain a driver’s licence. Many ICT-based jobs I am applying for state in their requirements: “must have own vehicle and licence”. Is this discrimination? Can I do anything about it? Thanks, Driven To Distraction

Image from anaperugini

Dear DTD,

Once again into the law books, which means that I should preface this by saying that I’m about as much of a lawyer as Lionel Hutz is, and depending on precise criteria it may be worth tracking down an actual lawyer.

With that out of the way, however, while it is quite patently illegal to openly discriminate against a potential employee on the basis of physical disability, amongst other factors, there is a particular “out” that probably applies in this case.

The Fair Work Act 2009 allows for circumstances that may not constitute discrimination, and one of those circumstances is where an action “is based on the inherent requirements of the particular position concerned”.

As such, if the position itself genuinely requires you to have both vehicle and licence as part of the ongoing duties of the position, then they’re probably — bearing in mind the law says “may” — entitled to insist upon it as a prerequisite of the job.

It may be worth checking precisely what the job conditions are, because some workplaces may be flexible in this regard. If it’s an ICT job that requires you to drive to multiple locations for support or installation duties at any given time, however, you may find yourself out of luck.


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  • You can’t discriminate against someone because of a disability but they need to be able to do the job. You can’t be a truck driver if you are blind.

    All the IT jobs I have been in have required me to travel, either to move equipment, troubleshoot at another site, pick up orders etc.

    • Exactly this.

      If the job requires you to drive from job site to job site, and possibly transport equipment with you, they are absolutely within their rights to say you need a driver’s license.

      If they are asking you to have your own vehicle too that’s a bit lame of them though, unless they reimburse you for your fuel costs for time spent driving for work and some maintenance.

  • My current job stated that in the description. When I started (I was 20) I had my learners only, but still got the job because I was able to get to and from the job when I needed (via bus, carpool or parents driving me). Any transportation of goods (such as computers) could be done by the maintenance crew who frequently travelled between sites.

    So I think if you ask what a license is required for and see if it’s a necessity or a “nice to have”, it should be fine.

  • Technically any job selection criteria is “discrimination”. You WANT to discriminate against people who don’t have the right qualifications, experience, personality type, physical abilities, whatever. As long as you can show that a particular aspect of a person will genuinely adversely affect their ability to perform a job, then it’s fair to discriminate against them based on that.

  • Dman is right. There is lawful discrimination: like qualifications to do a job, and unlawful discrimination, like bringing your size, age, complexion or sex into it.

    • one cannot chose their age, sex,etc in exactly the same way one cannot choose to be born with a congenital eyesight problem

      • So what? Whether the problem was congenital or acquired later in life is completely irrelevant. If it stops you from being able to perform the tasks required in a job, then you shouldn’t get the job.

        • Because someone can’t get from A to B? there is public transport, there’s taxis and uber. You play the hand you’re dealt I agree but it shouldn’t limit your job prospects. Especially when I’ve seen jobs “based at head office ,etc” that may require occasional travel. Yet at the END of the job listing it will say must have licence but no reasoning behind it.

          • If the job requires a lot of daily travel between sites on a flexible as-needed basis, I hardly think public transport, taxis, or Uber are going to be a practical option. You play the hand you’re dealt I agree but it shouldn’t limit your job prospects. Really? Depending on your personal circumstances, of course some job prospects are going to be limited. If you’re confined to a wheelchair, you can’t exactly be a firefighter or ballet dancer can you?

          • can we please stay on topic? This is about an IT role not a fire fighter, basketballer or electrician. And I said in my previous post “occasional travel” and the people in question aren’t physically handicapped just can’t see as far as everyone else

          • Ok, then, staying on topic: if the OP was applying for an ICT role which requires him/her to be “on call” to be on-site at the drop of a hat (e.g. business server mechanical failure) — I think it’s fair enough for an employer to require them to have a car and license. You can’t always get a taxi (e.g. saturday nights), and when you can it’s rarely prompt. Public transport is cumbersome. Uber might be good, except you need to add 20 minutes to the travel time for the compulsory rape.

            I think the best advice for OP is one lifehacker gives in general for jobseekers: apply for jobs you don’t necessarily meet the minimum requirements for. There’s nothing stopping the OP applying for a job, and in the cover letter stating that they’re unable to get a license but have alternative means of transport. OP shouldn’t expect employer to pay for the taxi fares, though.

      • In the electrical industry you can discriminate against colour blindness. It varies state to state on the exact legalities.

        • I used to work with someone who was colour blind. Prior to coming here he had trained with an overseas bomb disposal squad.

          • Then he would have told you that no bomb disposal work involves knowing which colour wire to cut in real life.

          • WHAT?!? Next you’re going to tell me that reversing the polarity of the neutron flow and diverting axillary power the deflector dish won’t boost shield strength!

          • He didn’t like to talk about it all actually. 😐
            His colleagues found the juxtaposition amusing though, even if it would only come into play at the end of a Hollywood blockbuster.

          • There are tests you can do to measure severity and it’s effects on a person. There are many forms that affect you different ways, so that’s no surprise but you still can.
            But it also makes me wonder who’d make a bomb with colour coded wires? Wouldn’t you just use the one colour?

  • Suspect there is more to this. Being short-sighted doesn’t mean you can’t get a license. Lots of people wear corrective lenses.

      • That’s right, but short sightedness isn’t one of them, which is why it seems there’s more to it.

  • A little OT, but do you think that there might be a stock photo of cars driving on OUR side of the road?

  • I’m sure there may be bits missing from this. I work for an MSP, and have to frequently travel to customers. I would research the company’s to see if they need you to be able to travel. You can always explain in your cover letter that you are unable to drive due to a medical condition.

    The primary reason that companies tag the “must have a licence/car” is that they don’t want you relying on public transport to get to work. If the Train is delayed and your late, etc…

    • I actually disagree, the reason that companies tag the “must have a licence/car” is NORMALLY because the role requires the employee to travel. In an ICT type role, it will be because its a mobile job. You’re going to site to setup servers, troubleshoot, deliver equipment, deal with idiots who can’t plug in their monitors etc.

      In my experience, any role that says the applicant must have a licence is because they need it to fulfill the role, not to avoid public transport.

  • Any employer should be willing to make reasonable adjustments based on disability (ie. if you only need to travel to site occasionally, take a cab.I’ve given staff a cab charge voucher if their car was being repaired or they’d injured themselves and couldn’t drive.) However if your disability precludes you from being able to undertake a critical part of the job then it would (I assume) constitute lawful discrimination. However just because a job add says “Requires a license and own reliable vehicle” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t apply, they may be able to work something out for you.

  • Call them and ask! I have a health issue that prevents me from driving long distances so if an ad specifies license I call and ask. Most of the time it’s not actually a requirement and it’s just there because they used a standard template or it’s so infrequent they are happy to make other arrangements (video conference etc.)

  • So I’ve worked in ict support for 10 years now and in defence of these potential employees I have yet to work in a ict role where travel was not required.

    And not just travel but actually requiring the employee to drive onsite as you will be required to transfer servers and other hardware between sites and datacentres and unfortunately you can’t really transport these things via the train or Bus.

    Now you might think it varies by your role but even developers can be required to commit to site visits.

    I’m sure there is the odd occasion that this isn’t going to be an issue I worked in a large global support company supporting a banking environment I was based entirely onsite located in central Sydney and hardware was curriored and we only transported laptops between sites and even then that was rare because we were in central Sydney.

    So move to a cbd or be relegated to travel and require a license

  • As the owner of a small MSP/IT Consultancy firm, I’ve had the perfect candidates for jobs come in, crush the interview, very skilled and personable (very important in IT!) but no drivers licence, and no reason not to have it (over 25, not disabilities etc) and I’ve had to pass on them because the work we do here is mainly on site/call out. A lot is remote but not enough to justify hiring one person just for remote support only and nothing else. It is a shame the OP has this condition, but unfortunately as an employer I couldn’t hire them in a full time capacity.

    I do however agree that they should call the employer and talk to them about the role and who knows, maybe they have a position suitable to their needs. There is no harm in trying anyway, and an employer will be flexible for the right employee. The best thing a potential employee can do when applying is contact me first regarding the position, ask questions and then apply, adds an extra layer of connection between your resume and the next persons.

    Good luck!

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