[2020] FWC 3081


Fair Work Act 2009

s.120—Redundancy pay

HyperLife Pty Ltd T/A Acme Preston
Erin Black


SYDNEY, 12 JUNE 2020

Application to vary redundancy pay.

[1] This decision concerns an application made by HyperLife Pty Ltd T/A Acme Preston (Acme Preston or the Company) pursuant to s.120 of the Fair Work Act 2009 seeking to reduce the amount of redundancy payment to which its former employee, Erin Black, is otherwise entitled to receive, following her position being made redundant on 19 April 2020. The application is made on the ground that Acme Preston lacks the financial capacity to pay.

[2] The application was opposed by Ms Black. A hearing was conducted by telephone on 4 May 2020. Mr C Dowson (Director) appeared for Acme Preston and Ms Black appeared on her own behalf.

Relevant legislative provisions

[3] Section 119 of the Act is relevant to the application. It provides:

119 Redundancy pay

Entitlement to redundancy pay

(1) An employee is entitled to be paid redundancy pay by the employer if the employee’s employment is terminated:

(a) at the employer’s initiative because the employer no longer requires the job done by the employee to be done by anyone, except where this is due to the ordinary and customary turnover of labour; or

(b) because of the insolvency or bankruptcy of the employer.

Amount of redundancy pay

(2) The amount of the redundancy pay equals the total amount payable to the employee for the redundancy pay period worked out using the following table at the employee’s base rate of pay for his or her ordinary hours of work:

Redundancy pay period

Employee’s period of continuous service with the employer on termination

Redundancy pay period


At least 1 year but less than 2 years

4 weeks


At least 2 years but less than 3 years

6 weeks


At least 3 years but less than 4 years

7 weeks


At least 4 years but less than 5 years

8 weeks


At least 5 years but less than 6 years

10 weeks


At least 6 years but less than 7 years

11 weeks


At least 7 years but less than 8 years

13 weeks


At least 8 years but less than 9 years

14 weeks


At least 9 years but less than 10 years

16 weeks


At least 10 years

12 weeks

[4] Section 120 of the Act provides for a variation of an employer’s obligation to make a redundancy payment pursuant to the preceding section in two limited circumstances (s.120(1)(b)). It reads

120 Variation of redundancy pay for other employment or incapacity to pay

(1) This section applies if:

(a) an employee is entitled to be paid an amount of redundancy pay by the employer because of section 119; and

(b) the employer:

(i) obtains other acceptable employment for the employee; or

(ii) cannot pay the amount.

(2) On application by the employer, FWC may determine that the amount of redundancy pay is reduced to a specified amount (which may be nil) that FWC considers appropriate.

(3) The amount of redundancy pay to which the employee is entitled under section 119 is the reduced amount specified in the determination.


[5] The redundancy of Ms Black’s employment arose from the decision of Acme Preston to close its site in Ingleburn. Ms Black was one of four employees whose employment were terminated by way of redundancy. I note that similar applications have been made by the Company in respect of the redundancy payment due to the other three employees.

[6] Prior to commencing employment with Acme Preston, Ms Black was employed by Cumberland Manufacturing at the same site until its business was sold to Acme Preston in March 2019. Ms Black continued to work for Acme Preston and her service with the prior owner was recognised.

[7] It is common ground that discussions were held between Mr Dowson and Ms Black about the proposed redundancy on 15 and 16 April 2020 and this was confirmed by letter to Ms Black on 17 April 2020.

[8] Ms Black’s employment was covered by the Graphic Arts, Printing and Publishing Award 2010 (the Award). Clause 16 of the Award provides that redundancy pay is in accordance with the NES. Ms Black was employed for just under eight years and is therefore entitled to 13 weeks redundancy pay. It is not disputed that the amount of 13 weeks’ pay owed to Ms Black equates to $10,149.75.

[9] Acme Preston’s application is to reduce the redundancy pay to two weeks.

Evidence and Submissions

Acme Preston

[10] Mr Dowson gave evidence that the purchase of the business at the Ingleburn site in March 2019 was funded by vendor finance and a loan from a family company, Dowson Consulting, which is owned by him and three other family members.

[11] The Ingleburn site was on a one year lease. It was submitted that the production site was bigger than what the business operation required and despite the relatively higher rent, it was still considered to be a viable option at the time of the purchase.

[12] Mr Dowson said that the Ingleburn site continued to operate at a loss and a considerable amount of funds has been injected. The Company was initially in the process of looking to move the production to a smaller site to reduce costs. However, after the business was further affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, it was decided this step would not sufficiently reduce costs and the decision was taken to close the site and hence making the employees working there redundant.

[13] In terms of the financial position of the Company, Mr Dowson said that since the outbreak of Coronavirus, he had drawn a further $200,000 from the family business to maintain financial viability. The Company’s position has been exacerbated by trade debtors taking longer to pay their invoices. Mr Dowson said that the Company currently holds $38,000 cash in the bank, and had wages for its remaining staff due the following week. It was submitted that the business has insufficient cash flow to fund the redundancy payment.

[14] In support of the application, Mr Dowson provided a letter from his Chartered Accountants indicating that the Company as at 31 March 2020 has current assets of $1,219,837 as against current liabilities of $827,351.

[15] The letter from his accountant also stated that:

a. Mr Dowson had been negotiating with his bank for a small business loan and overdraft facility but this has not been forthcoming;

b. Trade Debtors are taking longer to collect as customers are not currently paying their outstanding invoices;

c. Stock on hand is not being converted to sales as customers are not placing new orders to the same extent as pre COVID-19; and

d. Shareholders loans to the company have increased by $967,661 over the past 9 months.

[16] In answering my question as to whether the business is eligible for the JobKeeper Payment, Mr Dowson explained that it was his understanding the Company was not eligible because it had acquired another business in November 2019, the result of which was that they did not meet the reduction in turnover requirements to be eligible for JobKeeper.

Erin Black

[17] Ms Black said that she met with Mr Dowson on 15 April 2020 to discuss the closure of the Ingleburn site and her possible redeployment to the Company’s Auburn site. She said that during the meeting Mr Dowson was not able to provide her with details of a particular role that might be suitable to her, or provide her with any guarantee as to the number of days she might be working. He asked her to discuss the details of the role with Michelle Wonson the General Manager. Ms Black said that Ms Wonson was also ‘vague’ as to the details of the proposed position, which led to a great deal of uncertainty for her.

[18] She gave evidence that she had a further meeting with Mr Dowson the following day, which led her to accept an offer of redundancy.

[19] On Friday 17 April 2020, she was called into a meeting with Mr Dowson and was handed a letter confirming her redundancy. She said the letter stated she would be paid 5 weeks in lieu of notice, and any entitlements owing within 7 days of the date of the letter. It was only at this point that she was informed that the Company would be applying for a reduction on the redundancy payment.

[20] Ms Black contended that at no point during any of the previous discussions did Mr Dowson make any mention that he was unable to pay her redundancy payment in full.

[21] Ms Black also outlined her personal circumstances, including that she had dependent children and a mortgage, and that she needed the full redundancy payment to help support her family.


[22] The general approach taken by the Commission for a variation in relation to an employer’s obligation for redundancy pay due to incapacity to pay is summarised by Hampton C in Mildren Automotive Pty Ltd 1 as follows:

  The provision means that the Commission “may” determine to reduce the amount of redundancy pay up to an amount of nil, indicating that the granting of full or partial relief from the obligation is an exercise of discretion in the circumstances of the case. The employer bears the onus of establishing that there are grounds justifying the exercise of the discretion. 

  The employer must satisfy the FWC that it is not financially competent or possessed of the necessary funds to make the payment, and has no reasonable source of funds. 

  The assessment of financial competence will include consideration of the financial standing of the business including its cash position and the assets of the business. 

  The effect upon the employees immediately concerned will be considered including whether making an order prevents the employee from recovering the entitlement through other means should the company be liquidated; the effect that any order may have on the status of employees as potential creditors should the company become insolvent; and the impact of any order on the employee’s rights under the General Employee Entitlements and Redundancy Scheme (GEERS) or similar schemes.

  The effect upon the continuation of the business, including whether reducing the entitlement of dismissed employees may have a beneficial effect on other employees, thereby enhancing their prospects of being able to remain in employment, are also relevant considerations.” (citations omitted)

[23] Taking the approach outlined above, I have concluded that Acme Preston has made out a case justifying the exercise of the discretion pursuant to s.120. To this end, I am satisfied that the Company is under significant financial strain and that it cannot afford to pay Ms Black’s full entitlement to redundancy pay. This is evident given the financial position of the Company, and in particular the evidence that the Company currently held only $38,000 cash in the bank, and had wages for its remaining staff due the following week. I am satisfied it does not have a reasonable source of other funds, having already borrowed from Mr Dowson’s family business to the amount of $200,000. I am also satisfied that Mr Dowson did raise with Ms Black the option of an alternative role at the Company’s Auburn site, albeit with little detail about what the role would entail, and this was rejected by Ms Black.

[24] Accordingly, I consider it appropriate to reduce the amount of redundancy pay to which Ms Black is entitled to four (4) weeks’ pay.

[25] A determination to this effect will be issued separately.



C Dowson for HyperLife Pty Ltd T/A Acme Preston.
Erin Black
on her own behalf.

Hearing details:

Sydney (by telephone):
May 4.

Printed by authority of the Commonwealth Government Printer


 1   [2013] FWC 2113.