Ask LH: Can An Offer Of Redundancy Be Withdrawn?

Hi Lifehacker, I'm after some help regarding my mothers current work situation. She was made redundant two weeks ago. Staff were given redundancy notifications by letter and the employer had them sign an acceptance letter. My mother did not receive the redundancy contract and now the company is saying that there is no ‘redundancy contract’ at all. She swears that she signed one. Will she still receive a redundancy package? Thanks, Please Help Mum.

Dear Please Help Mum,

This is an interesting one.

Let me straighten the facts out a little because there are some extra details you sent through to us around this question.

In short: Your mother was made redundant two weeks ago because the store she worked at was not able to negotiate a new lease. She was given redundancy notifications by letter and then made to sign an acceptance of that redundancy, which she did.

Then she was told, three days later, that the store would not be closing down after all. From that point, your mother asked to see the redundancy contract she signed and it was not provided to her. Then she was contacted by the Managing Director of the company and told that a ‘redundancy contract’ was never signed and that what your mother signed was merely a sheet explaining that the conversation about redundancy had taken place.

The Managing Director also mentioned that the offer for redundancy was withdrawn only 24 hours after discussions with your mother, because the store was going to continue doing business, and that 'the time frame between advise and withdrawal was so short that you could not have acted to your detriment in the interim'.

There’s a few things to look at here.

Provided your mother qualifies for a redundancy payout, then if an offer of redundancy was made to her, it is legally binding. Once that notification is given and agreed upon with the employee, then the notice cannot be withdrawn unless mutually agreed upon by the employer and the employee.

From what I can see, there is no ruling that determines the least amount of time that needs to pass between agreeing to redundancy and a withdrawal of that offer. Thus, even if the offer was withdrawn within 24 hours as the Managing Director suggests, if your mother signed an agreement for a redundancy payout, the employer will have to uphold that agreement, regardless of how long it was since notification.

Unfortunately, without a copy of the contract, her case will be harder to prove. If indeed she did only sign a sheet of paper that was not a 'redundancy contract' and was merely for keeping records about possible redundancy then things become a little murkier. I would suggest the first port of call would be finding out exactly what she signed and what that 'contract' is. This will allow you to decide what to do next.

Now, if you're mother is not eligible for redundancy but no longer wants to work there, and an employment termination hasn't been agreed to, then she will still have to provide notice to her employer that she wishes to leave. The protocol here is to follow the agreement she made when she signed her employment agreement and she may have to continue working there for another two to four weeks.

If you think that your mother has been treated unfairly or misled in any way, then I would suggest contacting the Fair Work Ombudsman at their website.

Of course, I'm not a lawyer and this isn't legal advice. However, it does seem like her employer is being slightly shady and that's generally an indication that you may have a case against the termination and the agreed upon redundancy package.

Good luck!

Cheers, Lifehacker.


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