A pay cut rejected by workers does not equate to a valid redundancy, the Fair Work Commission recently ruled.
In Mr Leon Mallard; Mr Steven Bolton; Mr Bernard Stonehouse; Mr Jason Wood v Parabellum International Pty Ltd T/A Parabellum International  FWC 2531 (15 May 2017), the Fair Work Commission ruled that jobs of four workers, all of whom worked in emergency services, were not genuinely rendered rendundant on the basis of a pay cut.
The four emergency service workers were employed by Parabellum, which supplies the services to Chevron. Due to a reduction in contract prices by Chevron, Parabellum faced significant financial challenges and attempted to reduce costs specifically the salaries of the workforce.
In the termination letters, Parabellum informed the workers that their jobs were made redundant, yet previously offered the same job for a reduced salary. Seeing as the workers rejected the job offer with lower pay, their employment was terminated.
The Fair Work Commission reviewed Section 389 of the Fair Work Act, which defined what a genuine redundancy is. Deputy President Bull stated that a genuine redundancy is “not restricted to whether an employee’s job is no longer required”.
Parabellum urged the Commission to take a wide interpretation of the provision, alleging that the “person’s job” includes all contractual arrangements the employer and employee entered into by contract, which includes employee remuneration. Parabellum contended that when the pay in an employee’s job is varied, and the role is no longer required to be performed at the original salary, then the job is no longer required to be performed by anyone, regardless if the duties and responsibilities are the same as those in the original job.
The Fair Work Commission examined relevant case law, specifically the definition of Bray CJ in R v Industrial Commission of South Australia; Ex parte Adelaide Milk Supply Co-Op Ltd (1977) 16 SASR 6, where redundancy was defined as the situation when “the employer no longer desires to have it performed by anyone.” Reference was also made to the definition of the word “job”, and it was noted that many of the definitions focused on the tasks, work, results, of a job, and none of them referenced the importance of the salary as an essential part of the definition of a job.
The “person’s job to be performed” under the Fair Work Act are, per Deputy President Bull, “the functions, duties and responsibilities associated with the job”. Remuneration then would be “the value placed on performing the job by the employer”, and variations in salaries “does not equate to the employer no longer requiring ‘the job’ to be performed”.
Therefore, a redundant job is one where the functions, duties and responsibilities of the job are determined by the employer as superfluous to the current needs. However, as the Commission noted, when Parabellum hired others to do the job at the lower pay, and even offered the same job at the lower salary to the four workers, then the jobs were not genuinely redundant.
Lessons for Employees — Seek Proper Employment Legal Advice
Knowing your rights is key to understanding how employment law works for you. Employees should, as in this case, ascertain the nature of the proposed redundancy, and logically, if the same work is required by the employer, then it is not a real redundancy.
Contact us for employment legal advice in Perth, Western Australia.
Keywords: Unfair Dismissal, Redundancy, Sexual Harassment
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