Do I have to give a staff member a job description?

Dear Aunty B,

I run a small company and have an administrations team of three people. One has moved up to become the company accountant and the other left due to ‘stress’, claiming the work hours were ridiculous.

Now the third person in the team is playing up. She is demanding a job description because she says she is unclear about her job and she is so busy she leaves everything half finished. I have told her we are a young company and as her job is so varied she can’t have a job description.

She is now making noises about being stressed about the job and says it is her right to have a job description. Do I have to give her one?



Dear NT,

Mmm… I have to admit… you sound like a dinosaur. While there is nothing which legally obliges an employer to give an employee a job description, why wouldn’t you?

In fact, try reading your letter again. You have stressed staff, jobs not being completed and staff begging for more direction. Matey, you need some management skills.

I ran this past Uncle P, our legal expert and he stresses that while you don’t have to give your an employee a job description, you should absolutely have an employee contract. Given the employee contract states that they have to undertake their various jobs successfully, why wouldn’t you add the list of jobs that need to be done successfully?

A job description can be flexible and doesn’t need to limit an employee’s role to particular duties. It can also be regularly updated as the role changes.

It will also help with accountability for all those half done jobs. If the employee falls so short of what the employer thinks are reasonable work requirements, then from a management perspective, there should be no problem moving someone on and finding someone who is willing to do the job.

The other thing it does, of course, is give your staff member some guidance and priorities. You sound like a poor communicator. Does she know the goals of the company? Does she know where you want the company to go? Often employers think people can read their minds when in fact, they need to constantly state the company’s goals and values – often in different ways.

The well written job description and a meeting with your staff member will make it clear what you expect from the role and the flexibility you expect on the role. This will help her stress levels or help her to understand she needs to move on to a company where she has a more structured role.

So I would have another look at your staff member. She is telling you what she needs to do her job better, so take an hour and do it. And by accepting the job description the employee accepts the responsibility to do those tasks and do them 100%.

And don’t forget we have moved to a different industrial relations environment now where we need a lot more paperwork. So while it also makes sense, and will help your employee, a job description will also help you in the long run. Do it!

Good luck,
Your Aunty B




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