Can you change your employee’s job description? resignation rates continue to soar, post-pandemic. Businesses are struggling to recruit in a crazily tight candidate market. Restructuring your workforce and redistributing workloads, either temporarily or permanently, is crucial.

Employers need to know the extent to which they can unilaterally change an employee’s role to:

  • include additional responsibilities
  • extend working hours, or
  • reassign employees to a different role altogether.

Many believe that businesses can swap and change the duties of employees at will—but it’s not that simple.

We know how important it is to have flexibility with your workforce. And it’s definitely a minefield. So here are a few things to keep in mind if you are wanting to change your employee’s role structure and duties.

Employment Contracts

Consider the employee’s employment contract. To provide flexibility, the contract should include some well-drafted wording to ensure any change to an employee’s position will not constitute a breach of contract.

A strong flexibility clause may support changes to an employee’s role. But there is still a risk that changes to the inherent nature of the role could constitute a repudiation of the entire employment contract. And major changes of duties could mean that the original position held by the employee is actually deemed redundant. This could create an obligation for you to treat this change as a redundancy, with the associated (big $) costs.

Position Descriptions

Position descriptions are vital in managing any workforce efficiently. But poorly worded position descriptions can lead to issues down the track when you need to change an employee’s duties.

We recommend having a high-level, well-structured  position description for every role that:

  • outlines the key result areas and accountabilities, in sufficient detail to assess
  • set out the job without being so prescriptive that you can’t change it.

It’s a fine balance but one HR Gurus are well versed in.

Relevant Award & Agreements

Relevant modern Awards and enterprise agreements may also have an impact.  Some Awards require that employees and their representatives are consulted if:

  • there is a proposed change to employees’ regular rosters or ordinary hours, or
  • there is a major workplace change that will have significant effects, such as job restructuring.

Once you have considered the contract and other relevant industrial agreements, work closely with your employee. The best way to avoid issues is if they actively agree to the change. Consultation is key!

Show Me The Money

But wait… even in this happy scenario, employers have may have additional financial obligations to employees who take on different or extra work. A change in duties could mean that an Award employee moves up a classification to a higher pay rate. Even if it’s only a temporary change, you could become liable for ‘higher duties’ allowances.

For employees who are not covered by an Award or enterprise agreement, overtime obligations can result from:

  • additional hours over the 38-hour week, or
  • outside of ordinary hours, resulting in overtime obligations

These may not be considered ‘reasonable additional hours’. This may also impact any annualized salary obligation you might have.

Work Health and Safety

Employees working long hours or carrying excessive workloads are at risk of fatigue and burn-out. This can impact on their physical and mental well-being. Make sure you undertake risk assessments to ensure any new arrangements are safe and sustainable.

Help with restructuring

Are you looking to restructure your business? Is it to address the type of people challenges that seem to be plaguing many employers right now? Fear not, help is at hand!

Reach out to HR Gurus before you act, and let us clear your path, because the last thing you need right now is even bigger problems!

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