The first stage of the restructure affecting approximately 3,000 service delivery staff concluded in February 2018 with a number of staff placed into broadly similar (but still technically new) roles. Staff with management, team leader, and technical roles had to compete for positions or express an interest in accepting redundancy.
Naturally such a restructure is a recipe to have stressed and worried staff. Placing the majority of staff into broadly similar roles as part of transition group 1 at least meant many staff had certainty of a job at least in the short term (more tweaks are foreshadowed for 2019 and 2020).
But staff that had to compete for jobs in the new structure (management in transition group 2, and team leaders and technical experts in transition group 3) had a number of issues to deal with. For starters, most of the jobs they were competing for had lower pay bands (in many cases the pay bands were substantially lower). Secondly, staff wishing to apply for the new jobs were asked to sit a psychometric test. The PSA challenged this and faced with a long delay before a substantive Court hearing, IRD backed down and removed the requirement that staff had to sit the test.
So what are some of the employment law issues that might arise with individual staff or groups of staff?
Some transition group 1 staff who were placed into broadly similar roles on existing terms and conditions actually wanted the option of redundancy, especially staff members who started before 1999 and had very generous grand-parented redundancy clauses. Unfortunately for transition group 1 staff wanting redundancy, their new role will in most cases be a ‘suitable alternative offer’ as defined in the Multi Union Collective Agreement (‘MUCA’). So there will be no redundancy option now, although there may be an opportunity in 2019 and 2020 if reduction in staff targets haven’t been met.
There are some situations where a staff member being placed into a broadly similar role could challenge that placement on the basis that it is not in fact a ‘suitable alternative offer’. An example would be a staff member that has only ever dealt with one aspect of child support (say debt) being placed into a job where they had to know about income tax, GST, and student loans. If looking at that person’s knowledge, skills, and experience it’s not realistic to expect that staff member to get to grips with the new role within 18 months, then it’s not a ‘suitable alternative offer’ as defined in the MUCA. That staff member could have rights to either request a more suitable job placement, or request redundancy.
For staff in transition groups 2 and 3 who wanted to leave IRD with a redundancy payment, they have that option as most jobs in the new structure have lower pay bands and therefore aren’t ‘suitable alternative offers’.
Staff in transition groups 2 and 3 who applied for, and missed out on, roles in the new structure do have the ability to challenge their non-appointment through normal employment law processes (of course there is always simply the option of taking the redundancy entitlement under the MUCA). This challenge could look at not just the roles that were applied for without success, but also other potential roles that still remain vacant and the staff member considers they have the skills for so is a ‘suitable alternative offer’.
If a staff member affected by the first stage of the IRD restructure wants to challenge any aspect of it, they need to remember that ‘time waits for no man’ and there is a strict 90 day timeframe to bring a personal grievance / challenge. For many the clock started ticking on 12 February 2018!