Businesses undergo pressures from many directions; successful businesses bend, flex and grow to take advantage of the opportunities that such pressures create. One of the mechanisms businesses utilise to build in responsiveness and flexibility is evolving management structures.

The ability to move resources within the business, to where they will do the most good, is imperative.

When those resources are people, however, many businesses face self doubt and a perception from staff that may not be based on reality.

This HR Highlight will explore a very common situation of a standard business adjustment in resource allocation, as we will see it is very common for staff to expect a redundancy payment, but in most cases such payments are not required and when comparable redeployment options exist, staff choosing not to transition are effectively resigning

Business Imperative

Company XYZ has been operating under a product based management structure, with product x having its own sales and management team, product y having its own sales and management team, and so on.

Administration and executive management was centralised across all products. As Company XYZ has changed its product offering, and the market has evolved its requirements, the business has decided that the duplication of structures is frustrating responses to customers and no longer efficient. A business review is undertaken.

Engaging Staff

As the business explored the change of the operational structure, from product based to integrated, discussions were undertaken with all levels of management and appropriate staff. For example it was established early on in the process that administration would not be effected, so while they were informed of the undertaking they were not involved in the process directly.

Role of Redeployment

As decisions were made, Company XYZ took the consultation to the next level and began discussions with individual employees on their future within the new business structure. As required all discussions began with a focus on redeployment. Redeployment is the movement of staff from one role to another commensurate role in the business. What is commensurate will change for each employee. Some employees will be willing to travel, making a seemingly inappropriate role suddenly a viable redeployment option. Others may require retraining before transitioning, or may be willing to take a pay cut for more favourable work locate or hours.

The business must first assess what roles will be available and propose those that are deemed to be appropriate. Then in discussion with the employee explore other options.

When assessing the appropriateness of redeployment the business must consider many elements such as:

  • type of work;
  • location of the work;
  • hours of the work;
  • status of the work within the business; and
  • payment structure.

Rejected Redeploymentwhat now?

In our example Company XYZ identified that one of the assistant staff in the product x stream would be offered redeployment to the same level of assistance in the new business structure. The location, hours of work, pay and status in the business would remain the same. The only change was that the employees current manager would not be part of the structure at that level (having stepped up).

In this example the staff member rejects the offer of redeployment, stating that they did not wish to work with anyone else. Company XYZ sought advice and confirmed that by rejecting a legitimate offer of commensurate redeployment, the staff member had in fact terminated her ongoing employment. When Company XYZ discussed this with the staff member there was confusion and anger, as there is an expectation by many staff that if their job changes at all due to a restructure, that they are entitled to redundancy payments. The staff ask the question time and time again, ‘so what do I get?’

This attitude is understandable, and is reinforced by the way that restructure and redundancy is portrayed in the media, however, it is not the reality, and is not helpful at the business level.

Businesses require access to the ability to evolve, and processes are in place to ensure that the employees are given every opportunity at continuing, commensurate employment. This is the initial imperative in every instance. Redundancy payments are a last resort, to be utilised when the business no longer has a need for the work tasks within its structure. The payments are designed to assist displaced staff to transition to new work in another company. Redundancy payments then are not appropriate in the context of redeployment to a new or changed role in the existing business.

The expectation of such a payout does remain, however, and ACAPMA reminds members to openly communicate to all effected staff how the redeployment and redundancy process works, and the ramifications of the decisions staff will be asked to make. Declining an appropriate, commensurate redeployment is a resignation and will result in no payout other than existing entitlements. Ensuring staff understand this reality, before they are asked to make a decision, is necessary to avoid disappointment and contention at a later date.

Here to Help

ACAPMA members are reminded that ACAPMA Workplace Relations Professionals are available to assist members on 1300 160 270 or you can email elishar@acapma.com.au. ACAPMA members can access resources and can call on the advice and support of the ACAPMAlliance Workplace Relations Professionals on 1300 160 270.

HR Highlights are things to consider, implement and watch out for in your business. They are provided as general advice and you should seek further advice on your situation by  calling 1300 160 270 and speaking to one of ACAPMA Workplace Relations Professionals its free for members. Click here to apply for ACAPMA membership.

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