An employment contract won’t always be specific about what an employee is, and isn’t required to do. A job description can either be specific and list everything the employee may be required to do. Alternatively, the agreement may be vague about what an employee is required to do.
This may leave an employer or an employee with questions. So, what if delegated tasks are not set out in an employment contract? Does an employee have to do everything they are asked to? Can an employee refuse to carry out certain tasks?
This article explains what an employer and employee should do where delegated tasks are not specified in an employment agreement.
What are delegated tasks?
Delegated tasks are tasks that someone is responsible for, but have passed them on to someone else to complete. Managers often delegate tasks, but how far is too far? There can be a fine line between delegating and getting someone else to do a different job.
This is where a job description becomes important.
Why is a job description important?
A job description describes the tasks, outcomes, staff and subject matter areas an employee is responsible to perform as part of their job. A job description can either be high level and vague or specific and lengthy.
Vague language is more likely to be used for job descriptions for senior or managerial roles. If a role is repetitive and well-defined, a comprehensive job description is more likely to be used.
The reason that a job description is important is because it is likely to form part of the contractual promise that an employee makes to an employer. It is the things the employee promises to do in exchange for the payment of a salary or wage.
But not all job descriptions form part of an employment contract. In fact, there has been a noticeable shift away from including job descriptions in employment contracts. Instead, the job description is a separate document. And rather than incorporating the duties into the agreement, the employment agreement specifically says that the job description does not form part of the contract and is subject to change.
This is favourable to employers because it means they have greater flexibility to change a job description. Whereas, if a job description is included in a contract, it cannot be changed without the approval of both the employee and employer.
When can an employee refuse to do something?
The next logical question is this. When can an employee refuse to do something that is either:
- not included in their employment contract; or
- vaguely described in their job description.
An employee has a duty to comply with an employer’s reasonable directions. What is ‘reasonable’ depends on the facts and circumstances surrounding this request. However, if a duty is clearly spelled out in a job description, a request by an employer to carry out that task is more likely to be considered reasonable.
On the other hand, a task or responsibility that is not included within a job description at all, is more likely to be considered an unreasonable request and something the employee can refuse to do.
One thing that employees should also keep in mind is that in a tough employment market, refusing to carry out a task can lead to dangerous territory. This is not necessarily from a legal perspective. However, losing favour with an employer where there are many potential replacement employees can sour the relationship.
The same rings true for employers. In a tough employment market where there is a labour shortage, asking employees to do something that sits outside of their job description or places too much pressure on them can lead to a high staff turnover. And for your star performers, this can have nasty consequences for employers.
The bottom line is this; it’s give and take.
No one appreciates an employee that says “that’s not my job”. But employees will quickly run for the hills of they smell an employer that is trying to squeeze every ounce of productivity from its employees.
How can Prosper Law help?
Prosper Law is Australia’s online law firm. We provide legal advice to businesses and individuals across Australia. Our areas of legal practice include contracts, eCommerce, publishing, legal counsel and employment law.
If you need to talk to an employment lawyer, get in touch today.
Contact the team at Prosper Law today to discuss how we can provide you with workplace legal advice for a fixed fee or at affordable hourly rates.
Farrah Motley | Director
P: 1300 003 077
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