Redeployment offered and refused — no redundancy

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Redeployment offered and refused — no redundancy

Fair Work Australia has settled a redundancy dispute by ordering no redundancy be paid to three Gold Coast nurses who refused redeployment after the paediatric ward in which they worked was shut down.

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Fair Work Australia has settled a redundancy dispute by ordering no redundancy be paid to three Gold Coast nurses who refused redeployment after the paediatric ward in which they worked was shut down.

[Full text of this case: Healthscope Ltd v Austin & Ors [2011] FWA 5599 (16 September 2011)]

A redundancy dispute arose between three nurses and their employer at a Gold Coast hospital when the hospital shut down the paediatric ward and attempted to redeploy the nurses to other wards.

The original team of nurses on the paediatric ward consisted of eight registered nurses — two of whom were provided with redundancy, two were redeployed, and one accepted reduced hours. The three remaining nurses were offered redeployment but refused, arguing they were entitled to redundancy.

‘Paediatric nurse’
 
The nurses in question submitted that the proposed redeployment was unacceptable work due to the different requirements between paediatric wards and other wards. They argued they were not just registered nurses, but paediatric nurses, with jobs specific to the paediatric ward.

The nurses each displayed a clear preference for working with paediatric patients rather than adult patients, and did not possess the confidence nor the will to be retrained to work on adult wards.

Acceptable alternative’
 
The redeployment program offered by the employer was detailed and specific to each individual nurse.

In general the redeployment programs offered: three months of supernumerary training in the new ward, maintenance of hours worked, maintenance of roster patterns, financial support for further training (a full 3 year Bachelor course in one instance), and a continuing commitment to ongoing permanent employment, all at the same location as the original job.

Nil redundancy entitlement
 
When settling the dispute, Commissioner Simpson focused on whether the employer wished the job to be done by anyone, whether the employer had provided adequate alternative employment for the employees and, as such, whether the general severance pay prescription in the award should have been amended in any way.

In relation to the first issue, Commissioner Simpson rejected the argument of the employer that the job was one of nurses in a hospital, finding that ‘the employment offered by the hospital and accepted by the three respondents was to work as paediatric nurses in the paediatric ward’.

As such the next issue to settle was whether the hospital had obtained adequate alternative employment for the nurses. In regards to this issue Commissioner Simpson found that the redeployment offers made were acceptable offers of employment, commenting that ‘I cannot accept … that the offers of redeployment to continue nursing in another part of the hospital with the associated retraining program specifically designed for their needs, and all of the other accommodations offered regarding hours of work, were not offers of acceptable alternative employment’.

Having found that acceptable alternative employment was obtained, Commissioner Simpson then ordered that the general severance pay prescription be altered so that it was reduced to nil, removing any redundancy pay obligations for the employer.

Healthscope Ltd v Austin & Ors [2011] FWA 5599 (16 September 2011) 
 
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