Are Job Descriptions Really Necessary for My Business?

by Derek Ross

The answer is a resounding, “YES!”

No matter how big or how small your business is, written job descriptions are an essential piece to any organization, both in a practical and legal sense. But not just any job descriptions. Be warned that inaccurate or outdated job descriptions are no more beneficial than no job descriptions at all. Without accurate, up-to-date job descriptions, you run the risk of complications that could cost you back pay for misclassified employees with up to three years for unpaid wages, liquidated damages, attorney fees and court costs, to name a few.

The lack of accurate job descriptions can also affect:

  • Productivity – “That’s not in my job description!” Create a concrete set of expectations for the employee from day one.
  • Recruiting – How can you attract the best candidates for the position if the description is outdated or just plain inaccurate?
  • Return to work requirements – if you haven’t established the physical demands of a job, how can you expect a healthcare provider to certify that your employee is physically able to return from FMLA or a disability leave?
  • Reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and some state laws – Just like returning to work, without an accurate job description, you cannot expect a healthcare provider to establish what accommodations may be needed to help your qualified, but disabled employee perform the essential functions of their job.
  • Properly classifying employees – Compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that all employees are classified as exempt or non-exempt. That information should be captured in every employee’s job description. For more information about correctly classifying employees, see Jim Spencer’s June blog Wage and Hour: Back to Basics.

So, how do you write a good job description?

A good job description should describe the tasks, duties, functions and responsibilities of a position. It outlines the details of who performs the job, the specific type of work, and the frequency and the purpose of the work as it relates to the company’s mission and goals.

A job description gives an employee a clear and concise outline for their job performance. Likewise, a supervisor can use a job description as a measuring tool to ensure that the employee is meeting their expectations.

Once enough information has been gathered, write a thorough, detailed job description. Common components of a well-written job description include:

  • Up-to-date and accurate job title
  • Overall position description
  • Responsibilities and tasks that will be required
  • Essential functions of the position, with examples of each
  • Required knowledge, skills and abilities
  • Required education and experience
  • Description of the physical demands
  • Description of the work environment

Standardize the information for each position: All of the job descriptions within your company should follow the same format. Be sure to include the following:

  • Date—when job description was written.
  • Job status—exempt or non-exempt under FLSA, include full-time or part-time.
  • Position title—name of the position.
  • Objective of the position—what the position is supposed to accomplish, how it affects other positions and the organization. Keep this brief and to the point.
  • Supervisor’s title—the position to whom the person reports.
  • Supervisory responsibilities—direct reports, if any, and the level of supervision.
  • Job summary—an outline of job responsibilities.
  • Essential functions—detailed tasks, duties and responsibilities.
  • Competency or position requirements—knowledge, skills and abilities needed.
  • Quality and quantity standards—minimum levels needed to meet the job requirements.
  • Education and experience—required levels.
  • Time spent performing tasks—percentages, if used, should be distributed to equal 100%.
  • Physical factors—type of environment associated with job: indoor/outdoor.
  • Working conditions—shifts, overtime requirements as needed.
  • Unplanned activities—other duties as assigned.

If you need assistance with job description creation or simply would like an audit of your current descriptions, please reach out to one of our experienced Human Resource professionals by calling East Coast Risk Management at 724-864-8745.

Disclaimer: The information provided on this website is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Use of and access to this website do not create an attorney-client relationship between East Coast Risk Management or our employment law attorney and the user or browser.

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