When a company upgraded an administrative position to include the need for a formal qualification, the position’s incumbent became redundant because she could not meet the new job specifications, according to a full bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC). This was despite the fact that the new position included 70% of the incumbent’s current duties.
The employee claimed unfair dismissal, saying she was not genuinely redundant and the FWC at first instance agreed, saying the employee’s job was altered but that it was an existing and continuing role. As such it could not satisfy the basic criterion of being a genuine redundancy.
On appeal, the company argued, successfully, that the new job was not the same as the existing job. Critically, the company was found to have purposely upgraded its bookkeeping capacity to a higher level as part of operationally driven changes. The full bench made the observation that there was nothing out of the ordinary in the situation which had arisen.
The company was able to demonstrate that its motives for the upgrade were to increase expertise and specialisation in the bookkeeping function and the fact that the new role incorporated a high degree of the incumbent’s duties was not a deciding factor.
This full bench decision is useful to employers to give them confidence where they need to act in a similar fashion to this company. The position of the incumbent was effectively abolished and a new one created, incorporating the old functions and the higher duties required. Applications were called for and the incumbent missed out. Employers are entitled to re-structure and make operational decisions such as these rather than retain individuals who cannot meet the criteria or level of expertise the company now requires.