Intern’s fight for payout in redundancy case


scissors cutting many 50 dollar notes

The outcome of a newly registered pharmacist’s redundancy case hinged on whether her employer offered suitable alternative employment

Ms B worked as an intern pharmacist at an Anzac Square, Brisbane pharmacy, but at the end of her internship her employer explained that this store did not have the capacity to employ another fully registered pharmacist.

The employer submitted to a Fair Work Commission hearing that they had “obtained other alternative employment,” which they offered Ms B, meaning that they could reduce her redundancy payout to nil.

She maintained that she was owed eight weeks’ redundancy pay from the employer, based on her length of service (between four and five years).

As well as not having the capacity to employ another fully qualified pharmacist at the Anzac Square store, the employer said that “the decision was also made that upon completion of the Respondent’s internship we would not employ another pharmacy intern, as the business no longer required the role to be performed.”

This meant the pharmacy intern role was redundant, they said.

When advising Ms B that she was to be made redundant, the employer told her they had “identified a suitable role for her redeployment”.

This role was a 38 hours a week role at an associated pharmacy in Loganholme, with a base pay rate of $26.28 per hour with applicable penalty and loading rates.

Six days after the offer, Ms B told the employer that she had accepted a position with a different employer and would not be taking on the new role at Loganholme.

She submitted to the hearing that “the location of the offered redeployment was unsuitable for her needs, given the location of her residence and the lack of her own vehicle or driver’s licence”.

“She submitted that the Applicant was aware of these circumstances and stated that, based on using South-East Queensland’s public transport planner, Translink, her daily commute of 15 minutes would increase to 70 minutes to get to Loganholme.

“She was also concerned about potential disruptions or delays in service causing her to be late to work and about travelling during non-peak periods, for example returning home after late trading, which may take a longer period of time and may pose risks to her personal safety.”

She said that promotion to the position of pharmacist at the Anzac Square location would be “part of the natural course of progression” after completing her internship, and that it was expected that she would continue her employment as a pharmacist once registered, pointing out that her contract of employment had no end date.

She also said she had been on stress leave just before she was told her position was to be made redundant. She attributed the state of her mental health to her work life over the preceding six months and, “as a result of how the Applicant [the employer] was managing the store”.

The employer said they had not been told about any effects of the work environment on Ms B’s mental health.

Even if the travel time to Loganholme had been acceptable, Ms B said she would not have agreed to the alternative employment offered.

“It was not in dispute that the Respondent was entitled to be paid redundancy pay. Further, the amount required to be paid was not in dispute and there was no suggestion that the dismissal was not a case of genuine redundancy,” the Fair Work Commission noted.

“The matter turns on whether the Applicant had obtained, ‘other acceptable employment,’ for the Respondent.”

The Commission noted that “the increased travel time is not excessive, in terms of what would be considered a reasonable period of travel time, particularly in circumstances of obtaining employment in the advanced position of pharmacist, and does not render the alternative employment unacceptable”.

As a result, Ms B had her redundancy payment reduced to nil.

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8 Comments

  1. Andy Harris
    13/10/2017

    “Advanced position of pharmacist ” come with $26.8 an hour and a 70 minute commute. Sounds advanced to me

    • Red Pill
      13/10/2017

      Thx to our neoliberal overlords, everybody loses except the man with the capital. Your professionalism isn’t worth a dime in today’s world

  2. pagophilus
    13/10/2017

    Court? Seriously? This whole story sounds like American-style over-litigation. Traveling 70 minutes to work in a capital city is not excessive. Maybe not preferred, but not excessive. Didn’t have a car or licence- after working between 4 and 5 years that’s the intern’s problem, not the employer’s. She should have obtained both. Stress leave – that’s well and truly overused these days.

    Why take responsibility for your life and learn to be resilient when you can go to court?

    • Daniel Roitman
      13/10/2017

      I think before rushing to judge this intern we should take a moment and think about how difficult the climate is for ECP’s at the moment. Entering pharmacy is not what it used to be. There are multiple pressures that make earning a living wage and getting meaningful employment a lot harder than for some of our colleagues who came up in the 80’s, 90’s and 00’s. $26.28, plus all the additional costs of travel (petrol, public transport, licensing) is woefully undervaluing 5 years of specialised study, hard-work and dedication. Also, you say travelling 70 minutes to work is not excessive, but maybe she took the intern role at that store precisely because it is close to her home?

      • Red Pill
        13/10/2017

        We got paid a dismal $14.20/hr in NSW in 2006. Many of us had to commute 2 hours each day to get to work and back on top of it. Moreover, 99% of intern pharmacists understand there may not be a pharmacist position for you at the end of your internship with the same employer. This intern sounds like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum.

  3. Greg Cadorin
    13/10/2017

    I don’t really understand the issue. (Its probably me).

    The intern had not previously been employed as a pharmacist, why is it expected that she will gain employment as a pharmacist once registered? She was a pharmacy student/shop assistant and then an intern.

    If one of my staff qualify as a motor mechanic am I expected to offer them a role for that new qualification? I get that the example is silly, but I was always of the understanding that being employed as an intern came with the expectation of gaining your qualifications and then seeking work as a pharmacist (which you have previously not been). I would expect that maintaining a position with your current employer would be desirable, but certainly not expected.

    Perhaps I’m missing something.

    • William
      14/10/2017

      No Greg I do not think you have missed anything it is just the “spoilt brat” syndrome appearing again.

  4. William
    14/10/2017

    Definitely sounds like a millennial problem again, expecting everything be given them.
    The employer spent time training her as part of getting her registration and then takes them to court because she wanted to stay with them when no such position existed.
    Why would any business take on an intern if that were the case?

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