Redundant responsibilities: What to do when your role changes

Before changing your role in any way, your employer should consult with you and give you the opportunity to provide some input on your new responsibilities and also to consider how they fit with your career objectives.

If the change to your duties is of such significance that your position no longer exists, you can argue that your employer has made you redundant. The question is whether this change is so substantial that it has stripped your original role of its functions.

What should you do if your role changes?

First, before you agree to any change to your role, ask your employer lots of questions about the alterations to your duties or position. These might include:

  • Why is the job changing? For example, does a change to the nature of the business mean that your employer needs to remove or update your role?
  • What exactly are the proposed changes to your duties? Use your current duties, which your position description or contract describes, as a reference point for this conversation. You can then gain clarification on the proposed changes and what your employer expects of you.
  • Will your level of responsibility decrease or increase?
  • Will your salary stay the same? If your new role involves significantly greater responsibility, you may want to initiate negotiations towards an updated salary package.
  • Does your employer believe this situation should give rise to a redundancy?

Once you’re armed with this information, your next step is to seek legal advice in order to understand your rights in relation to these changes.

If you think the alterations to your role are reasonable, you should request a new employment contract. In this case, you can enter into contract negotiations to ensure the new terms and conditions benefit you.

If you believe the proposed changes are unreasonable, or if you think you lack the skill set to perform the new role, speak with your employer and be sure to clearly articulate your concerns. Again, do not agree to any change until you’ve sought legal advice.

If you and your employer cannot agree on a new role, you may be entitled to severance pay.

Is it a redundancy?

By definition, a job is redundant when an employer no longer requires anyone to perform it. If a statute, award, enterprise agreement or employment contract covers the role, the redundancy is clear-cut.

However, the situation is more complicated when a position appears to continue (whether under the same title or a new name), but the duties change. In this case, the question is whether the changes to your duties and responsibilities are so substantial that they negate the original job. If so, you can ask for a severance package. The Fair Work Act has provisions for notice and severance payments, but your employment contract may include more-beneficial redundancy provisions.

If these entitlements are unclear or non-existent, or if you have some latitude to negotiate a better exit payment, you can choose to enter into separation discussions. A lawyer can facilitate these discussions to help you and your employer reach a mutually agreeable separation outcome, including an agreed exit payment.

Ultimately, you need to determine your end goal. Make a strategic decision about whether you want to be made redundant or whether you’d like to remain in your employment. Knowing your objective will help you seek advice on how to achieve it so you can take the appropriate steps in discussions or negotiations with your employer.

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Alexandra Grayson

Maurice Blackburn Sydney
Alexandra (Alex) Grayson is a Principal Lawyer who manages the Employment and Industrial Relations Practice of Maurice Blackburn’s Sydney office. She has almost 20 years’ experience in industrial relations, including almost a decade as a labour lawyer. The prestigious Doyles Guide lists Alex as a ...

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