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Employment Law – Employee Compensated After Award Obligations Ignored

Employment Law – Background

The Fair Work Commission has compensated an employee who was unfairly dismissed because her employer failed to comply with their consultation obligations under the relevant award.

Employment Law – Facts

In essence:

  • Carer’s that Care (CTC) terminated Ms Morris’ employment because it could not afford to pay her full-time wage after losing a significant number of clients
  • Ms Morris argued that she hadn’t received any warnings but was only told that CTC was shutting down and staff would be made redundant
  • She also argued that she was not provided with the opportunity to respond, because the managing director refused to have any discussions with Morris
  • Morris lodged an application for unfair dismissal

Employment Law – The Relevant Law

  • Section 389 of the Fair Work Act (‘The Act’) states that a genuine redundancy occurs when an employee’s position is no longer required and the employer has complied with any obligations under the modern award or enterprise agreement
  • Continue reading…

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Redundancy Consultation Cannot be ‘Hollow’

In Belinda Lee v Mission Australia, the Fair Work Commission warned against “hollow” consultation in redundancy, emphasising that it cannot be conducted for mere show and must have value.

Facts

In essence:

  • A program manager at Mission Australia alleged that she was made redundant without consultation whilst she was on parental leave
  • Mission Australia wrote to the manager stating she was going to be made redundant as they were no longer delivering their Skills for Education and Employment course and Adult Migrant English Program after Federal Government funding cuts. They stated they failed in their search for redeployment opportunities for her
  • The manager’s request to delay her retrenchment and redeployment period until after she returned from parental leave to see if any further opportunities arose, was rejected by Mission Australia

The Decision

The Fair Work Commission:

  • granted an interim order which prevented Mission Australia from retrenching the manager
  • emphasised that consultation must have a purpose, stating that “if the consultation does not provide [the program manager] the opportunity to influence the decision, it is of no value and the requirement to consult and the consultation is hollow”
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Employment Law – Redundancy Consultation

Employment Law – Background

Currently, there are no specific guidelines on how long employers should or must conduct redundancy consultations under a Modern Award.

Different rules of course may apply to enterprise agreements, under company policies or in some cases under the terms of an employee’s employment agreement.

We understand that employers may want to rush a business restructure in order to continue running the business, however, there are a few tips employers should consider to minimise any possible adverse effects.

Employment Law – Tips for Employers

Our Matthews Folbigg Workplace Solutions employment law team recommends employers:

  • prioritise good communication to affected employees rather than rushing the process
  • provide a reasonable timeframe for those employees to consider the proposed redundancy
  • give employees time to provide information to the employer for the employer to consider before the employer makes a final decision about the proposed redundancy
  • as a guide, utilise a week for redundancy consultations (however, three days should be seen as the minimum)
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Consultation – Essential for a ‘Genuine Redundancy’

Most employers are generally aware that a ‘genuine redundancy’ is a complete defence to an unfair dismissal claim. However, a redundancy is not rendered ‘genuine’ simply because the redundancy is justified or necessary. The Fair Work Act 2009 (‘the FW Act’) requires employers to undertake a consultation process prior to the implementation of redundancies.

The consultation process requires employers to give employees adequate notice of potential workplace changes (i.e. redundancies), and discuss what steps can be taken to mitigate the effects of the workplace changes.

Section 385 of the FW Act provides that a person will be unfairly dismissed if (amongst other things) the “the dismissal was not a case of genuine redundancy”. Section 389(1) of the FW Act provides that a ‘genuine redundancy’ is a dismissal where:

  • the employer no longer required the person’s job to be performed by anyone because of changes in the operational requirements of the employer’s enterprise; and
  • the employer has complied with any obligation in a modern award or enterprise agreement to consult about the redundancy.
  • Continue reading…