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Does your employer have to give you a job description?





Q: I recently joined a small, but growing, company. I asked my manager for my job description and she said we don’t have any. Is that legal?

A: Job descriptions can be helpful for both employers and employees. They can detail skills and requirements for a role, as well as responsibilities.

But not all companies have written job descriptions. Others do, but they’re not always thorough.

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I spoke with attorney Jonathan Sigel, a partner with Mirick, O’Connell, DeMallie and Lougee LLP. Here’s what he had to say regarding legality: “Neither Massachusetts nor federal law requires that employers have written job descriptions; however, as a management-side employment attorney, I strongly recommend that all employers develop and maintain comprehensive and accurate job descriptions for every position in their organizations.

“Job descriptions are obviously great tools for communicating duties, expectations, and educational/work qualifications to an applicant and/or employee. They also should reflect any physical qualifications of the positions — particularly those that have significant physical demands (e.g., lifting, bending, standing, etc.).”

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Sometimes job descriptions can be useful when an employee and his or her health care provider need to discuss returning to work after an illness or an injury, Sigel said.

“When an employee has an illness or injury which causes him/her to be out of work, a job description may be provided to the employee’s health care provider to help him/her understand the employee’s specific duties so fitness for return to work and possible restrictions/accommodations can be determined,” he said. “In short, a well-crafted job description can be extremely important and useful for both the employee and employer.”

In our work with clients, we are sometimes asked to draft job descriptions. We use a questionnaire that employees can complete, and then we pull that data into a job description template. Some companies also will ask employees to write the first draft of a job description because a worker often knows the role better than anyone else in an organization.

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Job descriptions are also helpful in establishing pay levels. When companies compare their pay rates with what their competitors offer, often one of the first tools a good compensation expert requests is a complete and accurate job description.

In your situation, I would suggest that you offer to draft a job description for your role. Share the draft with your manager. Your manager might have some edits, but ultimately you will get a job description.

Pattie Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group in Hopkinton.


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