Council members continue to ask this very important question especially as more start to return to the office after working from home, so we are taking the opportunity to give our guidance on this matter again.
Members often ask questions or raise concerns about being asked to undertake duties which they believe sit outside their role. This has always been an issue. More so over the years when jobs are lost
due to budget cuts and duties are invariably redistributed. Despite the council claiming that redundant jobs mean redundant duties, the reality is somewhat different.
When a dispute arises the first step is to look at the job description for the post. If the disputed duties are not included in the post holder’s job description then, in most cases the, the advice will be to refuse to undertake the duties. It is a fact that some job descriptions are either out dated or badly written or both. That doesn’t alter the position or the advice since it is management’s responsibility to ensure that job descriptions are relevant and fit for purpose.
A difficulty can arise when disputed duties are captured in a job description but where the job description is vague or overly generic. Descriptions such as “To administer medication….: or “To deal
with the public….” Or “To provide support and assistance in the day to day operations of the team….”. These are broadly unhelpful ways to describe a job but unfortunately many job descriptions are set out in this way. So much so that we need to make a judgement by comparing the relative demands and complexities of the disputed duties with the member’s grade. In our experience as a trade union we tend to always apply the correct interpretation.
Another source of contention in job description disputes is the final clause which states “To carry out any other relevant duties as required by management.” – Or similar words to that effect. Some managers wrongly and confusingly apply this aspect of the job description literally. The obvious point to make is that if the literal definition was the correct one then there would be no point in having a job description in the first place.
The reason all job descriptions have this line is that from time to time members may be asked to do something which strays slightly from their normal duties. Unforeseen or unexpected events or one off or occasional situations may reasonably trigger that clause. The clause is not designed to deal with routine tasks or duties as these should be incorporated into the main body of the job description.
It is important that you contact UNISON if you are in any way concerned about what duties you are being asked to undertake. In a climate of budget cuts and job losses especially we have to maintain a strong position on this.