Avoid Unfair Dismissal Claims With Position Descriptions

By linking a position description to performance management or a performance improvement plan, you can support managers or human resources in the performance management process, or in the discussion with the employee. In this blog, we will describe how you can use your position descriptions to help avoid an unfair dismissal claim after a performance management process.


What is a position description?


A position description is a structured document assigning work to a given position. It states what is expected to be performed and what the role is accountable for.


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The keyword in that sentence is ‘expected’. By having clear expectations, that are written down and clearly articulated to the employee, will help managers to communicate any areas of concern or development areas. As a position description can list both responsibilities, as well as goals/targets, managers can clearly convey the areas of concern, by referring back to the position description.


How to use your position description throughout performance management


Let’s take the role of Project Manager as an example. One of the key responsibilities is to manage and deliver projects on time, within budget, with the desired result for the client.


If a Project Manager consistently doesn’t meet project expectations, such as deadlines, this can have a financial impact on the business and can also result in reputational damage.


If the employee signed a position description when they started, the above areas of concern i.e., not meeting project expectations, can be clearly and transparently discussed by referring to the position description. As a first step, a manager should always speak to the employee to find out why this is happening. If it is something that is out of the employee’s control, is it a development area, have they had the appropriate training, or do they have the required skills and experience to be able to manage a project of that size?


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What if the employee has had all the appropriate training, has the required skills and experience and there are still areas of concern? The employee will need to be placed on a performance improvement plan. By referring to and using language that is in the position description, the employee will clearly see how the areas of concern are linked directly to the position description, as well as the impact the performance concerns are having on the business.


Performance improvement plan


Once you have a performance improvement plan in place, you can also ensure you meet the legal requirements of clearly explaining the performance concerns and providing the employee with an opportunity to improve. A performance improvement plan should also list what the employee and the manager are going to do, in terms of training, throughout the performance improvement plan to ensure the employee meets the required expectations.


If the employee does not improve and you must terminate their employment, you can use the performance improvement plan as reasoning and in the explanation to the employee. You can also use the language in the performance improvement plan and position description, in the termination letter provided to the employee.


By having clear, transparent expectations of an employee in a position description, you can avoid costly, time-consuming legal proceedings. It makes performance management both objective and legitimate, through the clarity of expectations.


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