HR Manager Fails to have Redundancy Decision Overturned

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HR Manager Fails to have Redundancy Decision Overturned.

In a recent FWC case, a long term HR managerial employee has failed to convince the Commission that his dismissal was harsh, unjust and unreasonable. Instead, DP Saunders ruled the decision to end his employment was due to reasons of genuine redundancy within the meaning of s.389 of the Fair Work Act.

The HR Manager had been employed by an automotive group from December 2004 until 31st January 2020. At the time of his dismissal, he was in the position of Human Resource Manager (Newcastle) with a salary package of over $120,000 comprising base salary, superannuation, yearly bonus, and the provision of a motor vehicle.

In 2019, his employer merged with AP Eagers Ltd, and following an integration process, it was identified that approximately 60 roles would no longer be required, predominantly in executive management, operational leadership, finance, legal, information technology and people and safety.

The new venture offered to redeploy the HR Manager to a role as an HR Business Partner, on a reduced salary, different title and amended duties and responsibilities. The offer was rejected, and consequently, he was made redundant. The HR Manager’s rejection of the offer was based on his belief that his role continued to exist after the restructure, and he argued that his redundancy could, therefore not be considered genuine.

DP Saunders rejected his contention noting several factors including that the new role offer was not a managerial position, did not have direct reports, and did not require a national strategic focus. Further, he accepted the employer’s argument that significant functions such as payroll and information technology had been relocated from Newcastle and Sydney, further reducing the scope of the previous position of HR Manager.

The Commission then considered whether the offer to redeploy him to the HR Business Partner role was reasonable in the circumstances. DP Saunders identified several factors that may be relevant in this process, including:

(a)   whether there exists a job or position or other work to which the employee could be redeployed;

(b)   the nature of any available position;

(c)    qualifications required to perform the job;

(d)   the employee’s skills, qualifications and experience. The employee should have the skills and competence required to perform the role to the required standard either immediately or within a reasonable period of retraining; and

(e)   the location of the job in relation to the employee’s residence and the remuneration which is offered.

DP Saunders confirmed the validity of the processes adopted by the company towards the HR Manager and that they were more than reasonable in the circumstances.

Further, during the meetings held with the HR Manager, where he was offered the HR Business Partner role, he indicated he was not prepared to relocate outside of the Newcastle area to accept another role. Consequently, DP Saunders rejected his further submission that the company had roles in other locations that may suit him and offered a reasonable alternative to his redundancy.

Consequently, it was found that the HR Manager’s dismissal was a case of genuine redundancy, and his application for unfair dismissal was dismissed.

Williamson v AHG Newcastle Pty Ltd T/A Eagers [2020] FWC 2929

For queries about redundancy or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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