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Redeployment offers too “different” to avoid paying redundancy pay

Two shift workers who were made redundant after rejecting offers to relocate and change their shift rosters have had their entitlement to redundancy pay preserved by the Fair Work Commission (FWC), after the employer had applied to reduce it to nil.

18 June 2024

Facts of case

The employees were FIFO (fly-in, fly-out) truck drivers for a mining company in Western Australia. Their circumstances were as follows.

Employee No 1

Was on a two weeks on/one week off roster. Transferred to Gold Coast, Queensland and roster changed to three weeks on/two weeks off. Rejected a redeployment offer that would put him back on a two weeks on/one week off roster, and transferred him to the town of Coolgardie, WA (he lived in Perth). Claimed it would increase his return flights from 10 to 17 per year. Travelling to/from home to work would have substantially increased his travel costs and required extra overnight motel accommodation. Those costs would partly offset the pay increase he would gain from working extra hours/shifts.

The FWC ruled that the redeployment offer was not acceptable alternative employment because it would have involved more time travelling and more time away from his family. The “family-friendliness” of shift rosters was an important factor in cases such as this one.

The FWC rejected the employer’s application to reduce his redundancy pay from six weeks to nil.

Employee No 2

This employee’s roster was eight days on/six days off, and the redeployment offer was two weeks on/one week off, which would have increased her work hours and wages. It would have increased her time on the job by six days per roster, but her time at home by only one day. She lived in Perth and would be transferred from one remote WA location to another (Coolgardie).

The FWC took into account a Parliamentary Inquiry that had found that rosters of greater compression posed significant risks to employees' mental health and wellbeing. Those shifts should be discouraged in favour of even-time rosters.

The FWC rejected the employer’s application to reduce her redundancy pay from four weeks to nil.

Another reason for rejecting both applications was that the employer only gave the employees 10 or 11 days to consider its offers before making them redundant – insufficient time for the employees to consider them and make adjustments to their personal circumstances.

 

What this means for employers

When making redeployment offers as an alternative to redundancy, the offer should not significantly disadvantage the employee in any way. That includes the impact on work-and-family arrangements, as in this case.

Any offer should give the employee sufficient time to make arrangements to adjust to the new arrangements, eg work/family and other personal circumstances.

 

Read the judgment

Application by Ozland Mining Services Pty Ltd [2024] FWC 1439 (31 May 2024)

Application by Ozland Mining Services Pty Ltd [2024] FWC 1440 (31 May 2024)

Mike Toten

Freelance writer

Mike Toten is a freelance writer, editor and media commentator who specialises in research and writing about HR best practices, industrial relations, equal employment opportunity and related areas. Mike has over 30 years' writing experience, including writing and editing Human Resources Management

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