A Capehart Scatchard Blog

The Importance of Job Descriptions

By on March 28, 2018 in Other with 0 Comments

Job descriptions are one of the most important tools in an employers’ toolbox, yet so many employers do not take job descriptions as seriously as they should.  Whenever I first meet with a new or potential client, one of my first questions is whether the employer has job descriptions for each job title in the workplace.  So many times, the employer will say no.  For those that tell me they have written job descriptions, many have not been updated or reviewed recently or the job descriptions are incomplete.

Job descriptions come into play in many aspects of the employment relationship.  For example, before an employment relationship even begins, job descriptions are used to create the advertisement for the open position.  Having an accurate and up to date job description allows the employer to provide potential applicants with detailed information regarding the duties of the open position as well as the qualifications required from applicants.  In fact, I generally recommend that employers provide applicants with a copy of the job description at the time of the interview so that the applicant can properly assess whether he or she can actually perform the duties of the position.   Job descriptions are also at the forefront of dealing with disability accommodation requests.  If you do not have a job description or the job description you have is inaccurate or incomplete, then medical providers will be forced to use only the information provided to them by the employee in providing an opinion, instead of having guidance from the employer regarding the essential functions of the job.  Additionally, job descriptions provide a roadmap to the employee regarding the employee’s duties and responsibilities in the workplace.  Failing to have up to date job descriptions can create issues with disciplining an employee for failing to perform the duties of the job.  Job descriptions also play an integral part in employee evaluations.  In fact, job descriptions are the guiding force in creating performance evaluations that will accurately assess how an employee is performing.

So where should employers begin?  First, an employer must identify each job title within the workplace.  Each individual job title should have its own written job description.  Second, the employer must evaluate the duties for each job title to assess the essential functions of the position as well as the secondary functions of the position.  Does the position require a lot of lifting (and how much)?  Does the position require bending and kneeling or climbing?  Would the employee need to travel for the position?  Are there any educational, licenses or certification requirements?    In many cases, speaking to supervisors and individual employees regarding what they do during their workday is helpful in the creation of an accurate and up to date job description.  Generally, it is also recommended that the job description contain a catchall that allows management to assign other duties not specifically listed and to indicate on the job description that management retains the right to modify the job description at any time.  Once the job description is complete, employers must have their employees sign off on their job descriptions, specifically, that they have read the job description and understand their duties.  A copy of the signed job description should be maintained in the employee’s personnel file.

Finally, employers should review job descriptions yearly to determine whether there have been any changes to the position, make any updates to the job descriptions that are necessary and have employees sign the new job description.

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