Job Title
Key points
  • The written statement of terms of employment issued to a new employee (as well as any amended statement issued to an existing employee) must contain – in the principal statement itself – particulars of 'the title of the job which the employee is employed to do or a brief description of the work for which the employee is employed' (section 1(4)(f), Employment Rights Act 1996).
  • Section 235(1) of the 1996 Act defines 'job', in relation to an employee, as meaning 'the nature of the work which he is employed to do in accordance with his contract and the capacity and place in which he is so employed'.
  • It follows that a newly-recruited employee (as well as one who has been newly-promoted or transferred) has the legal right to be told about the work he (or she) has been employed to do, his duties and responsibilities, the limits of his authority, the place where he works, and his duty (if any) to accept a transfer from one department or location to another when instructed to do so by his employer.
Job description?
  • Although an employer is not duty-bound to provide his employees with job descriptions as such, he has little to gain by denying an employee his (or her) implied contractual right to be informed about the nature and extent of his duties and responsibilities. Furthermore, such an employer could be prosecuted under section 2(2)(c) of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for failing in his general duty to provide his employees with the information, instruction and training they need to ensure their health and safety at work. He could also be held vicariously liable under section 36 of that Act for an offence unwittingly committed by an employee who was misinformed (or not informed at all) about the true nature of his job and the precautions needed to carry out his duties safely. Section 2 of the 1974 Act is reinforced by the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1992 which, inter alia, requires employers to assess the risks to the health and safety of their employees and to provide them with 'comprehensible and relevant' information on those risks and the preventive and protective measures that have been put in place to minimise or eliminate those risks.
Dismissal for misconduct
  • The employee who is dismissed for misconduct may be able to persuade an employment tribunal that he (or she) had been misinformed about the true nature of his job and had never agreed to undertake the additional duties demanded of him at the time of his dismissal. The redundant employee may claim that there had been no cessation or diminution of the work he was employed to do, or that he was unfairly selected for redundancy, given that other persons similarly employed were not made redundant. The female employee, who has exercised her right to return to work after childbirth may complain that, on her return to work, she was relocated in a job which bore little (if any) resemblance to the type of work she had been doing (and had been employed to do) before her maternity leave period began. There are other examples in which the nature and capacity of an employee's job will be an important and, in many cases, determining factor – on a reference or complaint concerning a breach of an employee's statutory rights or in proceedings arising out of an alleged breach of contract.
  • In a small organisation, with few employees, it makes sense for an employer to expect a degree of flexible working from his staff. Indeed, the employment tribunals have long since recognised and upheld the employer's right to manage his business to the best of his ability. In many situations, the dismissal of an uncooperative employee will be held to be fair. However, the tribunals also recognise an employee's right to be told what is expected of him (or her) when carrying out the work he has been employed to do. Accordingly, it makes sense to forewarn employees, particularly in the small organisation, that they will be expected to work overtime during busy periods, or to 'double-up' or help out in other departments when there are staff shortages or other unforeseen problems. If a degree of job flexibility or mobility is required, that requirement should be spelled-out either in the individual 'contract of employment' (ie, the written statement of particulars of employment) or in a related document (such as a job description or letter of appointment) handed to a new employee when he first takes up his duties.

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