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Articles and legal news from the Atkinson Vinden Team.

‘Tis the season to be frugal’

Employment Law

As we approach the Christmas/January period, employers who are experiencing cash flow pressures will be looking at staffing levels very closely. Unless the festive season is typically busy in a particular industry, it can be a time when restructures and potential redundancies are considered.

For some employers, hard decisions need to made at this time year. A conversation about redundancy in November is usually far better received by the employee than one in December (i.e. closer to the holiday period). Provided the dismissal is lawful, employees are less likely to bring a claim against the Company if terminated in November, instead of December. The right timing of that conversation can also have a less disruptive impact on workplace culture, particularly for the remaining employees who should be focused on finishing projects and tying up loose ends prior to any Christmas period closure.

From the employee perspective, being aware of these issues should serve as a reminder of the importance always of demonstrating the value of what you bring to your organisation. What have been your achievements this year, and what benefits have you brought to the company you work for. It might be timely to send a message of thanks to those you work for, in which you express how much you have enjoyed being involved in certain important projects during the past year, as well as referring to how motivated you are to achieve even greater things for the company in the coming 12 months.

If a position is declared redundant, some simple principles apply which employers and employees should both be aware of. Most Awards require a consultation process before the declaration of any redundancies. This requires the employer to give potentially affected employees advance notice of what is being contemplated so that they can provide their ideas and feedback before a final decision is made. Once again, for a highly motivated and capable employee, this provides a real opportunity to show your level of commitment.

The Fair Work Act has very clear payment obligations in circumstances of redundancy, but bear in mind that employers of less than 15 full-time equivalent staff do not have to pay severance under section 119. Long Service Leave will be payable if the employee has been with the company for at least 5 years.