Shameful act: long-term employee given redundancy by stealth

1 July, 2020

Despite the professionalism and dedication our members continue to demonstrate through their work, our union continues to see instances of employers treating their staff unfairly.

Actions like “redundancy by stealth” are especially disappointing given the extreme circumstances teachers, school officers and services staff recently endured to deliver quality education for students during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

IEUA-QNT Industrial Officer Danielle Wilson said an all-too-familiar story of a long-term employee being mistreated by their employer was a reminder for members to always contact our union for advice at the first instance of a major workplace change.

Employee undercut through reduced hours prior to notice of redundancy

Late last year, an employer notified a long-serving staff member that their hours were being reduced by more than half beginning in 2020.

The staff member in question had worked at the school for over 10 years on a minimum 60 hours per fortnight schedule.

Danielle said the member trusted their employer and assumed they could do this.

“The member then started the 2020 year working less than 24 hours per fortnight, only to be told by the employer recently that their position was now redundant,” Danielle said.

The amount of severance pay offered to the employee was based on their reduced rate of pay immediately prior to the redundancy.

“This means even though the member had worked significantly more hours per fortnight for many years, the employer offered them a substantially lesser severance amount, based on the reduced hours per fortnight they worked for only a few months in 2020,” Danielle said.

“The employer effectively made this position redundant by stealth and saved money in the process.

“An atrocious way to treat a long-serving employee,” she said.

Major workplace change requires consultation

Danielle said this member’s unfortunate experience highlighted two major issues.

Firstly, the employer failed to adequately consult with the employee about the proposed change to their roster.

Danielle said an employer who intends to make a major workplace change, such as reducing an employee’s hours by over 20%, must provide a major change notification and enter into consultation with affected employees.

At a minimum, the notification needs to address:

  •  The number of employees and the area, department or team affected;
  • The nature of the proposed change and the potential effects on employees;
  • The status of the employer’s considerations;
  • The likely timeframes; and
  •  The potential options to mitigate the impact of the change or entitlements available to employees.

“Where the need for change is genuine, it would be our view that such a significant reduction in hours should have triggered the redundancy provisions at the end of 2019,” Danielle said.

“If this had occurred, the member’s severance pay would have been at the higher rate.”

“This is an instance of an employer who has unfairly treated a long-serving staff member by first significantly reducing their hours of duty, only to make the position redundant a short time later.

“The employer also made the effective date for the redundancy before the next collective agreement wage increase, so not only does our member miss out on a higher severance pay, they will not get the next wage increase,” she said.

Contact us immediately for any major workplace change

The second issue was the member failing to reach out to our union for advice in the first instance, trusting their employer could do this without challenge.

“Members need to come to us as soon as any change is suggested by their employer, be it reduced hours, redundancy, restructure or anything else,” Danielle said.

“Even if you don’t think a change will have negative implications, it is better to let us double-check.

“If an employer is going to issue redundancies, they must be able to show they are genuine.

“Our industrial team are specialists in identifying the implications of workplace changes for members, particularly when employers are attempting something underhanded and unfair,” Danielle said.

To contact our union’s expert industrial team, visit our contact page.

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