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Manage role changes in your business

Make the most of your staff and avoid redundancy claims.

On this page

  • Understand what reasonable changes are
  • Key steps to manage risk during change
  • Deal with redundancy claims

Change is a reality in the current business environment and, if done well, can help grow your business. Employees may also see change as an opportunity rather than a threat.

What are 'reasonable' changes to an employee's role?

When you change staff duties, you need to be conscious of what may be considered a reasonable change within the scope of their position and what may constitute a redundancy or termination if challenged.

Reasonable changes are generally those that do not alter the essential position.

Examples or fair and unfair job changes are:

  • an administrative staff member who is asked to undertake lunch coverage of reception duties or learn a new system could be considered to fall within the scope of an Office Assistant
  • moving the same Office Assistant into a role which consists primarily of food and beverage service could constitute a redundancy situation.

Get more information on how to deal with redundancy and retrenchment.

What are the risks involved in change management?

Implementing significant changes to an employee's duties can have risks, primarily occurring when an employee claims:

  • their position is redundant
  • they have been effectively (and unfairly) dismissed
  • they have been treated unfavourably because of a protected attribute.
Claims of unfavourable treatment are mostly pursued under Fair Work Act 2009. A key risk for employers arises when there are other employees who do not have their position changed.

If the changes are not managed well there is the risk of staff feeling disenfranchised or fearing reduced job security, which can result in possible staff turnover or low morale.

Find ideas on how to engage staff and reduce turnover.

Key steps to best manage risk during change

To help minimise risk you should:

  • identify the issues and proposed solutions
  • consult with staff
  • document the changes.
In any situation of change, you should be prepared to outline exactly what the issues are and the changes that are proposed to rectify these.

Key questions for employers

To minimise risk, you should also ask yourself:
  • what is the issue? (Examples include lack of coverage during lunch hours, upcoming holidays or sick leave)
  • how many employees may be affected – more than one may require broad consultation, including union involvement?
  • does this impact on current entitlements or hours?
  • will this impact on the job classification and pay rates - are the changes of a nature that may result in a higher or lower classification?
  • how to approach and implement this change?

Redundancy claims

In the case of a redundancy claim the employer may be required to pay a severance amount. An employee could also lodge an unfair dismissal claim. A key consideration in both of these scenarios would be whether the changes resulted in a change to income.

You can find information about unfair dismissal claims and how to dismiss staff properly on our website.

Consult your staff often

Perhaps the most important step in any situation of change is to consult with your employees. This is good practice and is a requirement in situations of major change under many awards and agreements if the broader workforce is impacted.

Employees can also offer valuable input into any changes and highlight potential issues prior to them arising.

Find communication skills for managers on our website to help you build good processes.

Required documentation

If employees' hours or core requirements have changed, it is good practice to document this by reissuing job descriptions or making amendments as needed to employment contracts.

Case study: How to motivate your employees

'Moving from being a micromanaging small business owner to an empowering team leader is a journey, and it was very hard ... I'm pretty sure that's why a lot of small businesses don't grow past a certain point.'

Tristan White, The Physio Co.

Read more

The happy staff from Physio co.