I'm currently the System Administrator for a small manufacturer based in the UK.

I've a fairly well defined role, which I am currently happy with.

Recently I was asked to assist in the role of a staff member who had been signed off sick. This required me to take a small amount of external training. This was to enable to me to perform PAT testing. (PAT testing basically checks that an electrical item is safe to use).

Initially, I was only given the absent staff member's responsibility for the IT and general office equipment. The 'Factory' equipment would not be my concern.

None of the above was agreed in writing at the time... which I'm now feeling is a mistake.

Today, a colleague approached me and advised me that I have to have a plan in place to perform PAT testing over the coming year. I've informed them that it is not my responsibility to be planning for PAT testing, as that had not been discussed originally. I was then informed that the operations director (my direct line manager) had been involved in the meeting where this plan is needed. It was also implied that I am responsible for the entire site, not just IT and Office Equipment.

The absent staff member has now been off work for six months and it is not yet known if he will eventually return.

I'm now left feeling that my role is being expanded without my knowledge or consent. I feel that a permanent expansion of my role should be preceded with discussion, and potentially an increase in my remuneration.

I'm wondering what my next course of action is. I have so far considered (in no particular order of preference) :-

  1. Handing in my notice and finding something else. Do I want to work with a company that would operate in this way? Could I be better off elsewhere?
  2. Ignore it, its not worth the trouble fighting it, just take the responsibility and move on.
  3. Raise it as an issue with HR and the Operations Director. This is my preferred option

If I'm to raise this as a concern, how should I proceed?

My gut tells me that I should craft an email which details my current role, requests full clarification of the PAT Testing role, and calls to open up the discussion further.

In the further discussion, I plan to highlight that I've not had a pay raise since I started with the company. (I know this is true of all staff in this financial year, but i'm unaware of the previous year.). If I'm expanding my role, would it also be reasonable to highlight this fact, as in 'real terms' my pay has dropped when inflation is considered.


Just some notes, for clarification

I'm totally responsible for the IT here, but not at a manager level. I'm not permitted to make decisions without line manager approval

I've worked here for 1 year 10 months. Since the first year spanned a financial year, I understand why it would not be normal for me to get a pay raise that year.

I'm the only person in my role, and hold a fair portion of specific information that would make the role very difficult for a new hire in my place, and for the company to operate properly should there be an issue. I was trained on these by the previous position holder (he was headhunted out).


On me asking for a copy of my job description, our HR person also pointed out this line in my terms and conditions. "Please see attached your signed T&C’s. As you can see under the “Job Title” section, it refers to “from time to time you may be required to undertake duties within your capacity, by your manager”."

I've made the point that ongoing responsibilities that don't have a determined end date don't fall into a definition of 'from time to time'.

It is just being assumed that I will deal with it, as I've done some of the work in the past. The problem is caused by the person who is actually responsible for the planning and management of PAT testing is not in the office on a very extended illness, it's unknown if/when he will return. As a result, every colleague is having to pitch in and cover. I've no issue with the work being assigned, as it's not overly taxing, however, I do take exception for being made to be responsible for something that is not mine.

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    Have you discussed this with your line manager directly? There seems to be a lot of hearsay involved, so clarify the actual situation with them first to see where you stand. – Sebastian Proske Oct 15 at 9:15
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    @bharal - it's not about proof of ability here. It's an additional task that is not currently in my written job description. I was offered a salary based on that job description, if those tasks change, so should my salary. – Stese Oct 15 at 11:40
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    To me it's unclear what you want to achieve. It sounds as if you would rather keep your current duties even if it means keeping your current salary, is that right? – pipe Oct 15 at 13:44
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    PAT testing checks that a portable electrical item is safe to use. I can't believe it warrants more than a visual inspection of a kettle, a few laptops and some telephones. Sounds like a mountain out of a molehill. – Strawberry Oct 15 at 16:14
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    @Strawberry PAT testing is done on portable and not really portable equipment - e.g. desktop computers. If the item is portable (e.g. a laptop) they are tested more often. - From the outside, it involves plugging the device into some sort of test box and I think the ground connection has to be tested, including accessible metal parts I believe. So there is some work involved. And lastly there is a little sticker to fill in and glue onto the device... – DetlevCM Oct 15 at 16:29
up vote 27 down vote accepted

You need to talk to your manager. That way you know what they have agreed to.

Then assuming that your colleague was correct and you are taking on a significant portion of the PAT testing, then you need to understand how the PAT testing function is changing. Is somebody leaving? Is this a role until a replacement is onboard? Is the number of tests expected to increase?

If it turns out that this will be a significant portion of your tasks for the year and you are still the assistant tester ask if you can see the write up for the role for the current staff member doing that testing; that way you can use some of the same phrases in your write up.

If you are in fact in charge of the testing, ask for a meeting that will focus on what this means regarding your time, duties and responsibilities. Without knowing this you can't begin to plan. You will need to see the information regarding how the task is currently performed and planned.

All this needs to be done before you can decide how pay and benefits should be handled. It is way too soon to be planning your departure.

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    And after you talked to your manger, write him an email that sums up what you agreed to with the request to confirm. That way you leave a paper-trail. – Daniel Oct 16 at 7:38

Request a meeting with your line manager to clarify your situation:

  • how much PAT testing you are supposed to do
  • how you can include that into your current role, as this likely means that you'll have less time for it if things are as you describe them

To me it seems there is a lot of hearsay involved until now, you yourself don't know what your future role will be and seem to expect the worst (from your point of view).

Your company is relatively free to change your position, if you are qualified and able to do those tasks, unless explicitly otherwise stated in your contract. Of course it is up to you push back against this and draw consequences if this doesn't work.

Discussing added pay for your new role seems reasonable, but you shouldn't mix this with your (missing) annual raise, as those are two different issues.

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    I was intending on using the missing raise as a point of concern, which would then disappear if they agreed to a general rate increase. – Stese Oct 15 at 9:26
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    Hmm, I still wouldn't mix annual raise with role change raises, otherwise they might not be willing to give you another raise unless you take up additional roles. – Sebastian Proske Oct 15 at 9:34
  • Thanks, I'll keep that in mind. – Stese Oct 15 at 9:36
  • Yes, i would clarify first before making any other decision. Find out what exactly is involved. Then review your options on full information. – Kilisi Oct 15 at 9:42
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    It may all be a misunderstanding. People may have jumped from knowing the PAT testing plan is needed and seeing you doing some PAT testing to assuming you would be doing the plan. Your manager may have some other plan, such as a PAT-specialist new hire or consultant who will be starting next week. If that is the case, talking directly with your manager will sort it out. – Patricia Shanahan Oct 15 at 14:51

Handing in my notice and finding something else. Do I want to work with a company that would operate in this way? Could I be better off elsewhere?

Of course this is always an option, it's not what I would do but it's always an option. Seems rather drastic in this scenario to me though.

Ignore it, its not worth the trouble fighting it, just take the responsibility and move on.

Ignoring it completely sets a bit of a precedent that you are always happy to expand your role. Potentially this could come back to bite you later.

Raise it as an issue with HR and the Operations Director. This is my preferred option

This is actually the worst of the three options in my opinion - it just makes you look petulant and recalcitrant. Not generally qualities that promote a harmonious employment relationship and could almost certainly harm your career progression in the organisation.

I actually suggest a fourth option - take the responsibility, do a good job and use it to argue for a raise at your next pay review.

As you know in October I took on the responsibility, not just of carrying out PAT testing but also doing the planning for the next year. I think this has demonstrated my increased value to the company

or something like that.

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    I understand what you are saying regards to raising it as an issue, but your forth option also sets the precedent that I'll do it anyway, as in option 2. If I then raise it as a point for pay review later, it's possible that I'll be met with a 'you didn't raise this at the time, why is it an issue now' type argument. N.B We are not the size of company that does official, annual pay or performance reviews... not ideal, but I was aware before I joined. REviews are considered to be 'on going' – Stese Oct 15 at 9:29
  • @Stese not really - as long as you raise it within a reasonable timeframe - say within 6 months. Demonstrating your effectiveness in a new area of responsibility is a great way of proving you are worth the extra money IMO and you are setting a precedent that you are willing to take on new work but not for free, at least not forever. – motosubatsu Oct 15 at 9:32
  • I've accidentally done that fourth option. Still paying for it as it's with my current job. However, recently a similar situation has risen and this time I was ahead by demanding to see something in return. In this case it concerns code made in my own time for functionality not related to the business, but now the business is expanding, it's becoming relevant. Providing my own could provide significant development time boosts, however, I'm not willing to provide code, again, for free. The last time I discussed it afterwards "we would have another look to see ... (1/2) – rkeet Oct 15 at 19:49
  • ... how much time was saved" due to what I provided. But this was in hindsight. The opinion of my team and me is that a lot of time was saved (like, months worth). I asked, at the time, for an addition 10 days worth of vacation time, which seemed reasonable to me and was open for discussion. Didn't see a single thing. So no, do not do anything for free if the other earns money off of it. (2/2) – rkeet Oct 15 at 19:50

I've seen this type of behaviour in many companies I worked for. As soon as you pick up a task that is not related to your job description and do it well, it becomes your responsibility. Usually this ends up as unpaid work that just clutters your daily log. In extreme cases it forces expensive context switches that totally disrupt your daily activities. In my line of work, I often have to pick up the parts that developers or sysadmins are unwilling or unable to complete and do them myself or mock them so I can test a system as a whole or a very specific component in isolation.

Now I'm hard working and results oriented, so I don't mind a bit of extra work if it gets nice results at the end and it helps me grow professionally. This is not your case however. Your manager did not assign you extra tasks to help you grow as a professional or to improve a failing process. She probably did it because she didn't want to hire a professional. Regardless of her reasons, it's your job to just say no.

Another thing I learned in my career is to say no. Say no to extra work with no pay. Say no to extra responsibilities without reward. Say no to management roles without authority. Say no to tasks you don't understand or are unsure you can perform. Say no to needy colleagues that can't finish their own tasks on time and constantly need your (untracked) support. Just say no. No one will think less of you for it. And if they do, they aren't being professional and you shouldn't be working for them.

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    the overall issue is that the work is not being assigned in anyway. It is just being assumed that I will deal with it, as I've done some of the work in the past. The problem is caused by the person who is actually responsible for the planning and management of PAT testing is not in the office on a very extended illness, it's unknown if/when he will return. As a result, every colleague is having to pitch in and cover. I've no issue with the work being assigned, as it's not overly taxing, however, I do take exception for being made to be responsible for something that is not mine. – Stese Oct 15 at 12:09
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    It's your choice and your choice alone on how to react to this (unfair IMO) situation. I can only cite my own relevant experience in such cases and kindly ask you to just say no to unpaid work and extra responsibilities without authority. If your employers choose to know why you said no, they will ask you. You can then tell them whatever you choose to. Negotiate a better salary, tell them it was a dick move to "promote" you without asking, whatever. Right now, your manager took your silence as an acceptance of the extra work IMO. – BoboDarph Oct 15 at 12:19
  • Why is the extra work unpaid? Aren't you paid a specific amount of money for a fixed number of hours? Overtime is not mandatory. If the work cannot be done in the given time, it's your manager's job to solve that. – Chris Oct 16 at 11:10
  • It's extra work and unpaid because he's being paid a specific amount of money for a fixed number of hours to do something that is listed on his work contract. The tasks he's being asked to perform now are not part of that arrangement. As previous comments stated, the "from time to time" mention in his contract cannot be interpreted as "from now on this is your assigned job description because we said so". The role of test manager/test executor is very different from the role of sysadmin. – BoboDarph Oct 16 at 12:12
  • If you keep saying no to new responsibilities, the end result is not getting the opportunities to get them. And after a while, that is a problem. "Just say no. No one will think less of you for it." - yes, they will. This advice will cost you more than one promotion as the years fly by. – Stian Yttervik Oct 16 at 12:54

On me asking for a copy of my job description, our HR person also pointed out this line in my terms and conditions. "Please see attached your signed T&C’s. As you can see under the “Job Title” section, it refers to “from time to time you may be required to undertake duties within your capacity, by your manager”."

I've made the point that ongoing responsibilities that don't have a determined end date don't fall into a definition of 'from time to time'.

Trying to avoid assigned work by parsing your job description with HR is a mistake. Clearly, you are expected to do the work that is assigned to you.

And expecting that your permission is required for your the details of your role to be changed is also a mistake.

You should discuss this with your manager.

Talk about your role. Ask about what your priorities should be. Talk about how you should be allocating your time among tasks. Ask how much longer you will be expected to help with the new task.

Talk about your value to the company and how it will expand along with your expanded role. And if you sense that it is appropriate in the moment, ask what you need to do to get a raise.

And of course if your really don't want to do this additional task, or you feel you aren't going to be adequately compensated, find a new job elsewhere.

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    This isn't about work avoidance. It's about my job role changing without the discussion. I have a job description, which is tied to my contact and therefore my salary. If I'm doing work not within my job description, that isn't covered by the terms and conditions of "from time to time", this should be discussed with me, as it's further responsibility that i'm currently not being compensated for at all. – Stese Oct 15 at 12:05
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    I'd have no real issue with any of this if my Line manager actually expressed the wish for me to manage the PAT Testing in its entirety, even on an ad-hoc basis until a better solution is found. My issue is with the 3rd hand, assumptive attitude. My line manager being the 'Top Dog' in the company doesn't really help the issue. – Stese Oct 15 at 12:12
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    @JoeStrazzere from your profile it appears you may reside in an at-will employment jurisdiction that might encourage incorrect assumptions about employment in the UK. If Stese's employment contract specifies a job description, the employer's wish to dictate a change to this description is more than an attitude problem; it is a contractual problem. In the UK the employer has a duty to continue employment under the existing contractual terms unless they have a permissible reason to terminate the contract. – Will Oct 15 at 14:05

As much as you may be unpopular or suggesting this, if the scope of this work extends to multiple sites, is it lawful for you be performing this or should it be outsourced?

A simple plan would be to "get someone in" to periodically check and tag. A one pager, obtain quotes and engage. I know this a rort, but it provides absolution.

Worst case scenario : after a death in the workplace, where would you stand?

Rack and desktop are one thing, 440V sheet metal benders might be another. Is it just check and tick or "Megger and Log"?

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    Why would it not be lawful for him to perform Portable Appliance Testing on multiple sites? Are you aware of the Health and Safety regime in the UK? PAT tests are a very specific thing. (No three phase sheet metal bender would come under the heading of "portable appliance".) – Martin Bonner Oct 16 at 13:41

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