25th July 2013
The UK’s so-called 'knicker queen' Janie Schaffer has been in the news this week for taking legal action against her former employer Marks & Spencer for over £1 million in compensation after quitting her job after just three months.
Janie, who launched lingerie chain Knickerbox also worked for Victoria’s Secret for four years before joining M&S in 2012. This dispute and subsequent demand for a hefty recompense arises over confusion over Janie’s job description, expectations and the losses she has suffered as a result. It has been reported that she believed that she would not only have full control over the lingerie business unit, but she would also be rolling-out standalone underwear shops. Instead of this autonomous role, it has been reported that Janie found a number of people above her in the chain of command. She is seeking damages for shares and salary she has lost out on as a result of being misled.
This dispute over the job description, amongst other matters, shines a light on the perils employers face in neglecting to draft a clear and accurate job description when a new employee is being recruited.
The dangers of not getting the job description right
For a well-established business, job descriptions may well become well-used, well-worn and over-looked over time. They are rarely the most thrilling documents in a new joiner's welcome pack, full of HR jargon and lengthy and repetitive sentences.
However, there are real dangers in recycling generic job descriptions for roles time after time, and an employee that believes they have been misled over how a job description matches up to the actual role can cause, like in this M&S case, a dispute, court battle and a potentially large settlement, not to mention reputational harm which could affect future recruitment drives. To a lesser extent, a poorly written job description can mean the wrong candidates are recruited into roles projecting the company in a negative and unprofessional light.
Top Tips for job descriptions:
What to include:
As Marks & Spencer put the matter firmly in the hands of their lawyers and prepare for battle, the exact claims against them remain unknown. Clarity of expectations on both sides could have prevented a dispute arising. Getting it right with some simple housekeeping in the first instance proves yet again to be a cost effective investment; prevention of such claims is always better than having to deal with the cure.
The contents of this update are intended as guidance for readers. It can be no substitute for specific advice. Consequently we cannot accept responsibility for this information, errors or matters affected by subsequent changes in the law, or the content of any website referred to in this update. © Mundays LLP 2013.
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Andrew Knorpel reviews the busy last few weeks of employment-related cases heard by The Court of Appeal