May 22, 2019 | 06:01 AM

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04.09.2018Getting made redundant: a guide to a worker's rights

Getting made redundant is something that many people fear.

Getting made redundant is something that many people fear. It differs from getting dismissed or sacked, in that it’s not usually about the employee’s own performance, but instead about changing business or organisational needs. Sometimes, budget tightening can mean there’s no longer enough cash to pay the salary. Changes in the organisation’s priorities and consequent restructuring, meanwhile, can mean that a role is no longer deemed necessary.

While there’s no guarantee that redundancy will happen to any Australian worker in particular, everyone should be familiar with their rights just in case it’s something they need to face one day – especially in today’s precarious economy. Following is an overview of what rights an Australian worker has in the event that they are made redundant.

Check payment eligibility

In many cases of redundancy in Australia, the employee will be paid a sum as a result of the termination of employment. In some cases, though, no redundancy package will be offered. Employees are only entitled to redundancy payments if there’s an agreement in place. It’s wise, then, to check employment contracts to see whether this exists.

Employees can also be entitled to redundancy packages based on the size of the wider organisation. If an employee facing job loss is employed at an organisation with at least fifteen employees, they should look to their service duration. If they work in an institution like this and they’ve also had a year of unbroken employment there, it’s possible that they’ll be due a pay-out.

Exemptions apply

The area is complex, though, and in some cases, cash still may not be forthcoming due to a complicated series of exemptions. Remember: those who work on a casual basis will not necessarily be eligible, while those who work at a small business or are considered apprentices are also unlikely to have the right to payment. This isn’t an exhaustive list, either, so it’s important to seek professional advice.

Even if an employee falls neatly into one of these categories, it’s still possible that they won’t get the full amount of redundancy payment. This is because an employer has the right to ask the authorities for permission to slash a redundancy payment in some circumstances, including if the organisation doesn’t have the cash or if it manages to locate an agreeable alternative job for the person concerned.

Definitely redundancy?

As alluded to above, there are clear differences in the eyes of law between dismissal and redundancy.

But some unscrupulous employers might attempt to pass off a straight-up dismissal as a redundancy – especially if the reason for dismissal is against the law. This is why the employee should always check that they’ve definitely been made redundant and that an unfair dismissal hasn’t taken place.

Employment issues in Australia can often be resolved with the assistance of the Fair Work Ombudsman, which is a government-related body. The Fair Work Ombudsman can assist someone who thinks that they may have lost their job for what is known as a “harsh, unjust or unreasonable” reason. The problem is that one employee’s perception of what is “harsh” could differ from the employer’s.

However, the Ombudsman has plenty of experience in this kind of scenario, so it may be worth speaking to them. In the event that they’ve been discriminated against for reasons unrelated to their employment, such as gender, that’s a bit more clear-cut – and it’s definitely advisable to speak to the Ombudsman in this case.

Getting made redundant is something that many Australians unfortunately experience from time to time. But it’s important to make sure the decision is carried out fairly. From checking that the process has been carried properly and free from discrimination to ensuring that all monies owed are fairly paid, there many ways for an employee to make the redundancy process more bearable.

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