Two jobs into one: was it a genuine redundancy?


Two jobs into one: was it a genuine redundancy?

A Fair Work Commission decision has shed light on employees’ entitlements if two positions are consolidated into one and both employees are invited to apply for the job.


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A Fair Work Commission decision has shed light on employees’ entitlements if two positions are consolidated into one and both employees are invited to apply for the job.

The case involved a company with a branch office at Gladstone, Queensland. The office contained three administrative roles, but a declining market at Gladstone prompted management to restructure.

The decision included reducing the three administrative jobs to one. The job was to be a mixture of tasks from the previous three jobs, and some other duties would be transferred either to existing positions at Gladstone or to head office in Brisbane.

Management held onsite meetings with staff to explain and discuss the proposed changes.

One of the three administrative employees then resigned, leaving two to compete for the remaining position. 

Employee object to reapplying for 'old job'

One of the two employees objected, claiming she should not have to reapply for her 'old job'.

The commission discussed the proposed changes in duties and concluded it would be a significantly different job and both employees were invited to apply for it. However, one of the changes was the incorporation of several HR functions into the role. The employee had no experience performing those functions but the other employee had performed some of them as part of her previous job.

Management discussed other options with the employee, including applying for other jobs in the Gladstone office or for jobs at head office in Brisbane. The employee said she would not consider those two options but initially said she would apply for the remaining administrative position.

However, she later changed her mind and asked her employer to pay her a voluntary redundancy. Her argument was that she was being required to reapply for her old job, therefore she was being unfairly dismissed if she was not given the 'new' job. 

What is a genuine redundancy?

The decision discussed the meaning of  'genuine' redundancy in some detail. It held that if redeployment was reasonable in the circumstances, there was not a genuine redundancy. In this case, the employer had met its requirements under the relevant award to consult with employees about changes and had suggested other jobs she could apply for. 

Faced with the situation of having two employees and only one job remaining, it had devised a fair and appropriate selection process for filling the position. Given that the employee had rejected other possible redeployment options, the fairest option available to the employer was to invite both employees to apply for the one remaining job.

The employer’s actions had met the “reasonableness test” that should be applied to redeployment offers and decisions. There was no suggestion the two employees would have to compete with other applicants for the position.

In the circumstances of this case, there was a genuine redundancy and therefore not an unfair dismissal.

What this means for employers

If redeployment of an employee is reasonable in the circumstances when a restructure occurs, options should be discussed with an employee before making a final decision.

If redeployment is not reasonable for the employer and/or the options offered to the employee are not reasonable to him/her (eg demotion, pay cut, inconvenient relocation), there is likely to be a genuine redundancy.

If two or more positions are consolidated into one, all affected employees should be invited to apply for it and the selection process must be fair to all of them. Offering voluntary redundancy is an alternative, but again must be done fairly and equitably. 

Mossman v Veolia Environmental Services [2016] FWC 6043 (2 September 2016)
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