Can an employer change a job description?

Job descriptions are created so employees know what’s expected of them in their role. Job descriptions are normally made up of a list of tasks that an employee will need to perform during the course of his or her employment. A job description may also include key performance indicators that your employee should keep in mind. The job description you set should, at the very least, list the most important tasks required to fulfil the role.

It’s important, when creating a job description, to think about exactly what the employee must do to perform the role to a satisfactory standard. Defining performance standards as part of the job description is especially useful when you need to performance manage someone, allowing you to compare your employee’s performance to the tasks listed in the description. If your employee is under-performing, you’ll be able to begin a formal performance management process, which could result in disciplinary action. If you don’t have a job description, it’s difficult for employees to understand what’s required of them which can lead to performance or conduct issues.

Can an employer change a job description at any time?

The simple and safe answer to this question is no. You need to be careful when changing an employee’s job description without their consent because it could be considered a termination. We know that business needs can change suddenly, but you need to make sure that any changes you want to make are reasonable and don’t fundamentally change the employee’s position. For example, asking a receptionist to learn a new system would fall within the scope of their role and would be reasonable. Asking a receptionist to perform difficult accounting duties, however, would not be reasonable.

Making significant changes to an employee’s job description can amount to a redundancy, which means you might have to pay redundancy pay.

The most important thing you need to do, if you want to change a job description, is to get your employee’s consent. Your employee needs to agree to the changes and be kept well-informed about how the changes will affect his or her role. Even though minor changes may be considered reasonable, you should always consult your employees and keep them informed. This allows an employee to raise concerns, or even contribute ideas that might improve the role and the business.

Given the cost of getting it wrong, we recommend that you speak to a professional if you’re unsure of the right path to take. If you have concerns about performance management or any HR related issue, HR Assured offers a 24/7 telephone advisory service where you can receive advice from our experienced workplace relations consultants. Contact us today to find out more.