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Are your duties now the same as what you agreed when starting in your role? For many nursing staff, the answer might be no. In every setting all over the UK, you’re taking on more than you ever have, and this is likely to continue with the ongoing challenges of COVID-19. 

It’s reasonable to ask if you’re being paid at the right rate for the work you’re now doing. If you think you’re not, what can you do about it?

RCN National Officer Clare Jacobs says the first thing you should do is review your existing job description and ask yourself if it accurately reflects your duties.

“All too often, job descriptions are forgotten about and not updated, even though we know jobs evolve over time and rarely stay the same. This could cause problems if you’re considering if an individual is being paid fairly for what they’re doing.

We all want opportunities but don’t want to be taken for granted

“Check your knowledge, skills and expertise are reflected in your job description because this can have an impact on your pay banding. Always keep it in mind – it’s not just a historic piece of paper.”

It’s never too late to act, Clare says.

“Compare your new job description, if you have one, with the one you had before. If you don’t have a new job description, write down what you do now,” Clare advises. “List the differences and focus on the skill, demand and responsibilities of your job. Don’t focus on the volume of work – being busier than ever doesn’t necessarily make a difference to your pay band.”

Clare adds that nursing staff who work in the NHS should also refer to the NHS Job Evaluation Handbook.

“You can ask your employer for a copy of the report that was written for your job when the banding was assessed – it might be called a job match or job evaluation report,” she says. “This should show you the way your job has been compared against the national job profiles or how it’s been evaluated against the factors. Use the RCN toolkit to help you with this.”

The ‘other duties’ clause

Be careful if your employer says your new duties come under the “other duties requested by your line manager” clause. 

“These clauses are perfectly acceptable to include, but the duties need to be commensurate with the role,” says Clare. “If you’re asked to do something on a substantive and recurring basis above your grade, you need to ask if you’re acting up or if this is a substantive change to your contract. Ask in a curious rather than a confrontational manner because we all want opportunities but don’t want to be taken for granted.”

Clare adds: “For example, if you were asked to take on a new responsibility at the start of the COVID-19 emergency and you’re still working with that higher level of responsibility utilising additional skills, it’s now time to say this is a requirement of the job. We don’t want employers exploiting the situation and expecting people to work in a particular way, outside emergency situations.”

Regular reviews

Not all nursing staff will have a job description, so don’t worry if you can’t find yours. While it’s sensible to have one, there’s no contractual obligation to be given one.

However, if you do have one, it forms a fundamental part of your employment contract. It means you have a common, agreed understanding of what’s required of you in your role.

Your job description should reflect the work you’re doing

Clare says: “Job descriptions are useful reference documents and should be used and discussed in your performance reviews and appraisals.”

If you work in the NHS, you will have a job description and it’s used to determine your pay banding. For this reason, it should be reviewed regularly.

“There’s no hard and fast rule as to how often this should be done, but I’d advise reviewing when you take on new substantive duties and at least once a year,” Clare says. “Your job description should reflect the work you’re doing so your annual appraisal is an opportunity to flag if this is necessary.”

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