Bank forced to bench plan to shift elderly teller

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Bank forced to bench plan to shift elderly teller

The ANZ Bank cannot force a bank teller to relocate to other branches that had fewer facilities and were further away, a FWC full bench has ruled.

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ANZ Bank failed to gain leave to appeal against a decision that it could not force a bank teller to relocate to other branches that had fewer facilities and required 70 minutes extra travel time to/from work each day. The teller was aged 68, had arthritis in her hands, was a grandparent with childcare responsibilities and had worked in the same branch for 22 years.

A Fair Work Commission full bench found that the issues raised in the case were specific to the enterprise agreement covering ANZ employees and not important enough to pass the “public interest” test for granting appeals. As the teller’s previous job had disappeared in a restructure, triggering her proposed relocation, the full bench said that redundancy was a reasonable option for an employer as large as ANZ.

Facts of case


When her existing job ended with the restructure, the bank offered the teller the role of banking consultant at the same branch, but she believed that job would be too demanding at her age of 68. This job would have required retraining. She was offered transfers to two other branches, but believed that the provisions of the ANZ enterprise agreement that referred to “unreasonable impact on travel time or costs” entitled her to reject those transfers. Also, one branch did not have a teller cash recycler machine, which she needed to count money because of her arthritic hands.

She claimed that if the bank could not find a suitable job closer to her home, she was entitled to redundancy.

The extra travel time required to each other branch was estimated to be 70 minutes per day and the extra car running costs were estimated at $9.50 per week for one branch and $15 per week for the other. Travel by car was the only viable transport option.

The Fair Work Commission found in her favour, but ANZ applied for permission to appeal against the decision.

Decision


The full bench refused to grant leave to appeal.

It gave the following reasons:
 
  • The matter was not one of significant public interest. It concerned the particular terms of a single enterprise agreement, and would not set precedents for other employers regarding relocation of employees. This was despite the ANZ being a large employer that frequently transferred employees.
  • What was “unreasonable” in this case might be reasonable for other employees and/or with other employers. Therefore, the decision would not provide any precedent as to what is “unreasonable”.
  • Refusing leave to appeal would not impose a significant burden or injustice on ANZ. Even if redundancy was a “worst case” option for it, the burden would not be significant.
  • The grounds of appeal were not sufficiently arguable to justify granting leave to appeal.
The bottom line: Perhaps the most significant observation in this decision is that determining what is “unreasonable” will be influenced by the individual circumstances of each employee. The extra driving time and cost was considered unreasonable for a 68 year-old employee with arthritis, but may not have been for a younger and fitter employee.

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