Workplace Law: Background

In the Fair Work Commission decision Paul Williams and Ors v Staples Pty Ltd, the Fair Work Commission reinstated four employees after finding their redundancies were not genuine under the Fair Work Act.


In essence:

  • 12 permanent full-time employees worked within a warehouse unit of the employer
  • the positions of these employees were made redundant which lead to the employment of all 12 ending
  • 4 of those employees disputed their redundancies
  • the employer based its decision on an increase in operating costs and a decrease in the volume of work
  • the employer informed its Joint Consultative Committee (JCC) as required by the consultation provisions of the relevant enterprise agreement (EA)
  • the employer used a selection matrix to assess employees and after two days informed the 12 employees of their redundancies
  • the employer argued the redundancies were genuine under the Fair Work Act because the 12 employees were not required on the basis of the increasing operating costs and decreasing work volume AND although expedited, the consultation requirements in the EA had been satisfied through meetings between the JCC and the employees AND redeployment of the employees elsewhere in the business was unreasonable as they lacked the necessary qualifications or skills
  • the 4 employees argued their dismissals were unfair because the consultation provisions under the EA were not satisfied, redeployment options were not properly explored by the employer AND the opportunity to challenge the redundancies was not afforded to them

The Fair Work Commission Decision

  • found the redundancies were not genuine
  • found their dismissals were unjust, entirely unreasonable and harsh
  • held the employer had breached the consultation provisions of its own EA and the redeployment requirements stipulated in the Fair Work Act
  • stated that such failure was so ‘significantly non-compliant as to be grossly deficient’
  • held that due to the expedited process, the employees were deprived of a chance to provide their views or discuss ways of mitigating their impending redundancies
  • stated that adding to the lack of transparency and accountability, the employees were not informed about the composition or application of the selection matrix and were deprived of the opportunity to review or challenge the selection matrix
  • held the employer had failed to properly examine redeployment options

Tips for Employers

Our Matthews Folbigg Workplace Solutions employment law team recommends employers:

  • review this Fair Work Commission decision
  • seek the assistance of an employment law specialist to understand the impacts of this Fair Work Commission decision
  • ensure compliance with all employment laws including Fair Work Commission decisions, Awards and enterprise agreements
  • fairly, consistently and lawfully apply redundancy rules and obligations
  • understand what employment laws apply at your workplace including Awards and enterprise agreements
  • be aware that penalties can apply for breaches of employment laws including Awards and enterprise agreements (which an employment lawyer can advise on)
  • be aware damages can apply for breaches of employment laws including Awards and enterprise agreements (which an employment lawyer can advise on)

More Information

Please call the leading employment lawyers in Parramatta, the Matthews Folbigg Workplace Solutions employment law team on 9635-7966 to speak with one of our employment lawyers.