Legal rights when your job is replaced by AI


Welcome to Sisters In Law, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all of your legal problems. This week, our resident lawyers and real-life sisters, Alison and Jillian Barrett from Maurice Blackburn, talk redundancies amid the AI job crisis.

QUESTION: I work for a company as a copywriter where I write content for websites and marketing material. Recently, I’ve noticed a big shift over to using AI to produce content and my job seems to involve editing copy that has been created by AI. Not only is this offensive to my skills but it’s also worrying for the future of my job. I can already see management calculating how much money they’ll be able to save if they get rid of a few of us! Is there anything I can do to protect myself? – Anon, NSW

ANSWER: The rise of artificial intelligence has caused many roles to change or become no longer needed.

It sounds like the industry you work in is not immune to these changes.

By definition, a job is redundant when an employer no longer requires anyone to perform it.

A redundancy is about the role itself, not the person in the role. It is not a solution to a performance issue or about a desire to terminate a particular person’s employment.

If a redundancy is likely, it is important to understand your rights to help you navigate the situation and protect yourself.

In the short term, you could consider having a discussion with your employer about other responsibilities or duties at the company that you may be able to do and that fit with your career objectives.

This may lead to broadening your role, making you more indispensable to the company and may assist in avoiding a redundancy.

Consultation process

If they do intend to make your role redundant, your employer must follow any consultation process required under your award, registered agreement or employment contract.

A consultation process would usually involve being given notice of the proposed changes and the effect of the changes, having a discussion about the steps that can be taken to minimise the impact on you and also considering any ideas or suggestions you may have about the changes.

It may not be a genuine redundancy if the consultation process as required by your employment is not followed.

Notice periods and redundancy pay

The National Employment Standards outline all things relating to payments. An employer needs to ensure that any notice provided and payments are no less than what is outlined in the standards.

In some circumstances, for example if your employer is a small business or you are employed on a casual basis, you will not be entitled to any redundancy pay.

If you are a permanent employee and you are being made redundant, you will be entitled to notice.

This is either in accordance with:

• The Fair Work Act (which stands at between one and four weeks of pay, plus an additional week if you are aged over 45 and have been employed for more than two years, and which is the minimum you would be entitled to), or

• An additional and different provision within your employment contract, award or enterprise agreement.

You may also be entitled to a severance or redundancy payment under the Fair Work Act.

For this, you must meet particular criteria, such as being with your employer for more than 12 months, and the employer having more than 15 employees, to qualify for this entitlement of up to 16 weeks’ pay.

Again, there may be higher provisions within an award, enterprise agreement, employment contract or employer’s policy that you are covered under.

If you are a contractor or an employee on a fixed-term contract, your rights will vary again depending on the contract.

Disputing the redundancy

If you are made redundant and you suspect that it is not genuine or that you are not being paid what you are entitled to, you should first speak with your employer or human resources representative.

If you still feel you are not being given the right answers, contact the Fair Work Ombudsman or seek legal advice as soon as possible.

This legal information is general in nature and should not be regarded as specific legal advice or relied upon. Persons requiring particular legal advice should consult a solicitor. If you have a legal question you would like Alison and Jillian to answer, please email stories@news.com.au. Get more from Alison and Jillian on their Facebook page.