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Job-Sharing – Everything Employers Need to Know

Job-sharing, where one full-time role is shared by two people both working on a part-time basis, has become a regular feature of the employment landscape.

This flexible type of working arrangement has the potential to benefit both employer and employee. However, care must be taken when concluding these types of employment contracts to ensure that the responsibilities of the job-sharers are clearly defined and provision is made for eventualities like holidays and sickness. A poorly thought-out arrangement could have serious implications for an employer should any disputes arise.

In this article, we will sketch out the basics of a flexible and legally sound job-share and include some tips on how to avoid potential pitfalls.

How does job-sharing work in practice?

Job-sharing can work across a range of roles. In practice, it seems that the types of roles it suits are administrative or support positions. Employers who are contemplating creating a job-share should consider the following:

  • Are the hours easily defined?
  • Are the tasks easily defined?
  • Are the tasks capable of being performed by more than one person?
  • How will the business monitor the efficiency of the job-share?
  • What will this mean in terms of costs to my business? Please bear in mind that as an employer you will still be responsible for pro-rata holiday pay and other statutory benefits.

A successful job-share arrangement requires careful thought and planning on the part of the employer. These are some of the elements which should be discussed with the potential job-sharers and agreed between all parties:

  • How will work be allocated between the job sharers?
  • What is the communication policy?
  • How to resolve disputes;
  • What are the specific tasks and how will the job-sharers be made aware, if their targets are not being met?
  • What will happen if a job-sharer is:
    • On leave?
    • Off sick?
    • Resigns from their position?

A recipe for success

The core principle of the job-sharing arrangement is flexibility. While you as an employer should be clear about what you expect in terms of outputs in many cases it will be the job-sharers themselves who will work out how they will deliver in the role. The ideal job-share is where handovers are smooth and consistency of work is maintained.

Employers must be alive to the fact that even though they are part-time they must treat each job-sharer as an individual as regards assessment for bonuses and pay increases. Indeed all aspects of employment law will apply to part-time employees including anti-discrimination and fair dismissal law.

What happens when one half of the “team” leaves?

This is often a thorny issue and must be dealt with properly in the employment contract. If one half of the job-share resigns or is transferred elsewhere in the company there is a legal duty on the employer to make reasonable attempts to fill the space left by the departing job-sharer. If that is proving impossible the remaining job-sharer should be given the option of taking on the role full time. It is important that the employer take care not to place pressure on the remaining job sharer to take on more hours particularly in circumstances where the job-share has come about as a result of a formal flexible working hours request  If that is not feasible they could be transferred to another role in the company.

However, if worse comes to worst, and the job-share arrangement simply cannot continue and alternative employment within the organisation cannot be found, a dismissal could be considered fair on the grounds of “some other substantial reason”.

How to avoid problems with job-shares?

The best way of ensuring that your job-sharing agreement is lawful and fair to all parties is to reduce it to writing as a formal document. This document must set out:

  • all the obligations of the employer and the individual jobsharer;
  • How holidays and sick days will work;
  •  and whether, in times of increased work flow, it may be permissible to have two job-sharers working at the same time.
  • what will happen in situations where the job-sharing arrangement cannot continue and the risks associated with such an eventuality such as redundancy or dismissal.

If you are a small employer and new to the job-sharing arrangement it would be well worth your while to consult with an employment law specialist to review your proposed employment contract. This will ensure that, to the best of everyone’s ability, the contract of employment is fully compliant with the law and the needs of your business. An employment specialist will be able to swiftly identify any areas where you may be exposed as well as raise potential pitfalls which you may not yet have considered. If you do suffer the misfortune of ending up in an Employment Tribunal a properly considered and drafted employment contract will be your best line of defence.

This article is provided for general information only and is not intended to be nor should it be relied upon as legal advice in relation to any particular matter. If you require specific legal advice on any issue relating to employment law or job-sharing arrangements, we at Burlingtons Legal LLP will be able to assist. Please contact us on  +44 (0)20 7529 5420 to arrange a consultation.

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