With over 40% of employees leaving their jobs because they don’t like what they are doing, it’s not surprising that many might be wondering what kind of rights you have if your employer makes changes to your job role.
It can come as a shock when your job function changes unexpectedly and you might be trying to uncover whether your employer has the power to change your job description.
In our helpful article, we will cover the legalities around your employer’s boundaries when setting out your job function.
As long as there is no significant increase in duties and requirements are reasonable and legal, an employer can make changes to your job description. Your employer should discuss any changes with you first. If you think you might be being discriminated against, seek legal advice.
What is a job description?
Your job description should in essence outline your main duties and responsibilities within your job role.
This forms part of a ‘written statement of particulars’ and employers must give it to you on, or before your first day at work, containing your job title and a brief description of your duties and tasks.
A written statement of particulars is a legal document in which basic terms and conditions of your employment are set out. To comply with the law, you must receive this within eight weeks of starting a new job.
Although it’s not a legal requirement, it is good practice for employers to give you a more lengthy detailed job description.
So how does your job description bind you and your employer in a legal way?
“Although it’s not a legal requirement, it is good practice for employers to give you a more lengthy detailed job description.”
How legally binding is a job description?
In general, unlike a contract of employment, a job description isn’t legally binding.
You might be asked to take on other tasks as long as they are reasonable and legal.
However, within some contracts of employment, there might be what’s known as a ‘variation clause’. This allows your employer to make changes to your contract.
However, if a change to your contract was without notice or is unreasonable it may be a breach of implied ‘trust and confidence’.
You should be given “fair warning” if your employer is using a variation clause to make changes to your contract, which could include working hours, rates of pay, etc.
“In general, unlike a contract of employment, a job description isn’t legally binding.”
Can my employer change my job description without my agreement?
According to the U.K. government website, it’s usually the case that your employer needs to make sure you agree to any changes in the contract.
However, it’s worth noting if you as an employee have a legal right to a change, you can insist that your job description is changed. This might be due to disability or other reasons.
In order to remain within legal boundaries, your employer should follow a reasonable program of activities before making any changes.
These may include:
- Explaining to the employee why changes have been made
- Discuss employee’s future plans, such as with more mature workers who may be approaching retirement. This could include changes in shift or any other changes to their job role.
- Talk through any alternatives
- Consult with any staff associations or trade unions that are applicable
Can my employer change my job description without extra pay?
Your payment for a job you perform should be laid out in the terms of your contract.
It’s worth understanding your average pay should not fall below minimum wage and that any employer could be breaching the terms of your contract if you are asked to do significant duties above or beyond your normal duties, especially if that means extra working hours.
Within your contract there is an implied term of trust and confidence which means any extra duties should be reasonable or they could be breaching your contract of employment.
“Any employer could be breaching the terms of your contract if you are asked to do significant duties above or beyond your normal duties, especially if that means extra working hours”
What extra tasks should I not perform?
Most job descriptions form part of your contract of employment. Within your contract, there is often a clause that states that you should be willing to undertake any reasonable task outside of your job description.
However, if you are being asked to do something that is a breach of health and safety rules or asked to perform a task that is illegal they may be violating what’s called a ‘public policy’.
This means that if you were fired because of this type of task your employer would be acting illegally.
You are within your legal rights to refuse any task that puts you or others at risk.
What to do if you don’t agree to a change in the job description?
- Try to reach an agreement with your employer: If you carry on working if you don’t agree with any extra or different duties required from you, it could be seen that you have agreed. So it’s important to take action as soon as possible. If you are unable to come to an agreement, you may think about using the employment tribunal to make a claim. This is known in legal terms as a ‘breach of contract’.
- Let your employer know you won’t accept the change: If your employer hasn’t given you fair warning of notice about any changes to your job role, you should mention it to them as soon as you can. Ask for reasons for the change and see if you can come to a compromise with tasks or duties that are more reasonable. If this cannot be achieved then let your employer know you won’t accept the change.
- Tell your employer that you are working ‘under protest’: You should let your employer know that you are ‘working under protest’ as soon as you can following any unreasonable change of duties, with or without extra pay. If you carry on working, as usual, it could be seen that you have accepted the change. Let your employer know straight away.
What happens if I resign?
If you decide to resign due to changes in your job role that might be considered unreasonable, it’s worth deciding whether to continue in your role while you look for other employment.
If any changes are significant enough to form a serious breach of contract, you could claim for constructive dismissal after your resignation.
If you feel that a change to your contract could be termed as ‘discriminatory’ for example if you are disabled then you should contact expert solicitors in employment law.
If you are having difficulties at work with changes to your job role or feel that you might have been discriminated against, here at Robertsons solicitors we can help you make the right choices. If you want to know your rights if your employer is wanting to change your working hours, read our blog.
Our expert specialist employment law solicitors understand all aspects of this complex area of law. We can advise you on the best course of action for quick resolution and a positive outcome.
If you would like a chat in confidence about any changes to your job role or employment contract, get in touch here.