Workplace change process

Information for employers to learn about the steps they need to follow when making workplace changes, including consultation and implementing the changes.

At the start of any workplace change, review your employment agreements and workplace policies as these might set out what steps you will need to take and your responsibilities during the proposed change process. For example, if an employee will be made redundant, check the required notice period and any redundancy entitlements.

Also check if any potentially affected employees are union members, as affected employees and their unions will need to be consulted.

Where a change includes a decision to sell, transfer or contract out some, or all, of the work to another party, you might need to follow specific rules that apply to business transfers. 

Restructuring when a business is sold or transferred

Step 1: Develop your workplace change proposal

Your workplace change proposal should clearly explain:

  • what the proposed changes are
  • the reasons for the proposed changes
  • how and when you plan to implement the proposed changes
  • the processes for consultation and feedback
  • any proposed assessment criteria and selection process.

Step 2: Assess impact on employees

Assess how the proposed changes may impact employees. If an employee might be impacted or affected by the change, they — and their union — will need to be consulted about the proposed change.

An employee might be impacted if, for example, the proposal:

  • changes their duties or their place of employment
  • disestablishes their role
  • creates new roles that could impact on their current role
  • decreases the number of employees doing the same role as the employee
  • merges their role with another role
  • is a combination of these.

To assess how a proposed workplace change could impact on employees, you can:

  • write job descriptions for proposed new roles and compare them against existing roles
  • ‘job-size’ new roles and compare them against existing roles
  • check the existing number of employees in a role and compare it against the proposed new number of employees in a role. 

Assessing if a role is the same, similar or different

If the restructure involves changes to duties, assess whether the proposed changes mean that the role is the same, similar or different to the employee’s current role.

Whether the role is the same, similar or different has important consequences at different stages in the process. For example:

  • it can inform whether the role is actually being restructured
  • it can inform whether a person should be redeployed to a new role
  • if there is a technical redundancy clause, it can inform whether the person is entitled to redundancy compensation.

Same role

Not all changes to employment mean employees will be made redundant. For example, you can make lawful and reasonable changes to duties as long as they are within the scope of the employee’s employment, taking into account what the employment agreement says, their job description, and what they’re currently doing.

Similar role

A similar role is a job that is outside the scope of an employee’s current employment but is similar to what they are currently doing. The employee may have the right skills, experience and attributes for the role, although they might have to do some retraining (for example, learning to use a new system).

Different role

A different role is a job that is significantly different to what the employee is currently doing. They might not have the rights skills or experience — even with retraining — and the terms and conditions might not be the same. You might need to run an application or selection process to fill significantly different roles — this will depend on what the employment agreement says about redeployment to a different role.

Step 3: Share proposal with employees and their unions

Invite your employees to a meeting to hear about the changes being proposed. The meeting should include employees whose jobs may be affected by the proposal and their union. Consider inviting all employees so that everyone is aware of the proposal.

If affected employees are on leave or away from work for other reasons (for example, secondment) and cannot attend the meeting, make sure they receive the information and have an opportunity to talk with you if they want to.

If the proposal means that some positions will be disestablished and those employees might be made redundant, consider speaking with them privately before speaking with other affected employees. 

When you share the proposal with employees and their unions you should:

  • explain the proposed changes
  • explain the reasons for the proposed changes
  • explain how and when you propose to implement the changes
  • be clear about which roles may be affected
  • explain any proposed new roles, and share job descriptions for these
  • explain any proposed assessment criteria and selection procedure
  • explain the next steps in the process and when they will happen, for example, timeframes for reading and considering the proposal and providing feedback
  • explain the process for consultation and how employees can provide feedback
  • encourage employees to contribute their views to the consultation process
  • let your employees know what support is available to them.

Supporting employees through change

Step 4: Gather feedback

Give employees a reasonable time to consider the proposal, seek advice, and give feedback. Let them know:

  • how they can provide feedback
  • the final date for providing feedback
  • who to approach if they have any questions.

Consider preparing a document outlining common questions and answers.

When deciding a timeframe for providing feedback, consider:

  • the number of people affected
  • the size and complexity of the proposed changes
  • the time available for employees to read the proposal and provide their feedback. 

If an affected employee requests more time to provide feedback, consider and respond to the request in good faith.

Step 5: Consider and respond to feedback

It’s important to read and genuinely consider the feedback received. Consider summarising the feedback into points or themes to help you respond to it.

Decide which parts or themes of the feedback you agree with and accept, and which you don’t agree with and reject. 

Let affected employees and their unions know which parts or themes of feedback you’ve accepted or rejected and the reasons why. 

Feedback specific to an individual’s situation should be responded to directly to the individual. Take care in the process to protect the individual’s privacy. 

If you make changes to the proposal because of the feedback received, consider giving employees another opportunity to provide feedback on the updated proposal. If the changes mean that different employees could be affected, consult with those employees and give them an opportunity to provide feedback.

Employee privacy

Step 6: Confirm the decision

Once a decision has been made about the proposal, tell affected employees (and their unions). Examples of ways you can do this include:

  • providing a copy of the decision to affected employees (and their unions) setting out the changes that will be made and what they mean for affected employees
  • meeting with, and providing a letter to, each individual employee impacted by the change, setting out the changes that will be made and what they mean for affected employees
  • meeting with groups or all affected employees (and their unions) to explain the decision
  • meeting with all employees, so that everyone is aware of the decision and the changes
  • a combination of these. 

When communicating the decision, you should:

  • clearly explain any changes to employees’ duties or their place of employment
  • clearly explain any roles that have been disestablished
  • clearly explain any new roles that have been created
  • clearly explain any decrease in the number of roles
  • provide job descriptions for the new or different roles that have been created and, if relevant, the pay or pay scale for new roles
  • provide details about the proposed implementation process, for example:
    • the proposed selection process
    • the process for considering redeployment for roles being made redundant, what support is available, and when the changes will be effective from.

Step 7: Implement the change and manage selection process

Consider how you will implement the workplace change and consult employees (and their unions) about the proposed implementation process. Remember to check your workplace policies and employment agreements.

Depending on what workplace change is happening, consultation about the implementation process might need to cover:

  • the proposed selection process for new or different roles
  • considering alternatives to redundancy
  • how you will consider redeployment of employees into other roles.
    A workplace change process can be a difficult time for employees, especially once the impact of change decisions sinks in. 

Supporting employees going through change

Managing a selection process

Sometimes workplace change means:

  • there are fewer roles than people in those roles
  • new roles have been created which are different to the existing ones.

In these situations, you might need to fill roles using a selection process. You must select employees for roles in a fair and reasonable way.

It’s important that the selection process complies with any workplace policies and procedures and employees’ employment agreements. For example, if your employees’ employment agreements or your policies include a requirement to offer voluntary redundancy before a selection process is used, make sure you offer voluntary redundancy in the way the agreements or policies describe before moving to a contestable selection process.

Involve employees and unions in a selection process

If a selection process is used, employees and their unions should be given an opportunity to comment on:

  • what the selection process will involve
  • how the selection process will happen
  • any proposed selection criteria.

Selection criteria should be objectively measurable. You should tell affected employees what the criteria are, and give them reasonable time to prepare for, and participate in, the selection process. 

You must also give employees the results of the selection process and an opportunity to comment on the result they receive.

Step 8: Consider redeployment and other alternatives to redundancy


Redeployment is moving employees into other roles in your organisation to avoid redundancies. 

You must consider redeployment options during workplace change. For example, if an affected employee will lose their job because of workplace change, you must consider if they are suitable for redeployment into any other available roles in your organisation. This includes considering roles that are different to what the employee is currently doing. Check the employment agreement to see what it says about redundancy or technical redundancy.

If the employment agreement does not say anything about redeployment, the employer must still consider redeployment and offer it if it’s available. Then employees can choose to accept or reject a role that’s offered to them. If they reject it, they could lose their job. 

Make sure employees know that redeployment to different roles is an option. Give them access to information about what, if any, roles are available for redeployment. This could include roles at another location in your organisation.

Other alternatives to redundancy

Other alternatives to redundancy include:

  • changing hours, duties or shifts
  • job-sharing
  • decreasing hours. 

Options like these might be suggested or come up through the consultation process. Any changes like this must be agreed by both you and the employee. Consider whether the changes will be temporary and reviewed after a period of time, or permanent.

If the changes are agreed to, make sure they are in writing and signed by you and the employee. 

An employee is redundant when there are no further options available for them to stay employed by their employer.


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