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No. 128 – The company I work for is being sold. Can I lose my job?

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11 October 2023

Each week, Dr Kirstin Ferguson tackles questions on the workplace, career and leadership in her advice column “Got a Minute?” This week: probation in the midst of a company sale, seemingly unfair pay structures and superannuation changes leaving employees out of pocket.

My employer is selling the business where I work. The new owner has agreed to keep all employees going forward, but only on a six-month probation period. Is this allowed?

I was a little surprised to discover this is not at all a straightforward situation, and it will depend on the size of your employer’s business (for simplicity, let’s call this Old Boss) and whether your new employer (New Boss) is an “associated entity” of the old one. Since it’s tricky, I consulted Sarah Queenan, founder and managing director of Humanify HR Consulting.

Whether the new probation period is permitted all depends on what was negotiated during the sale of the business between Old Boss and New Boss. Sarah tells me it is possible New Boss has negotiated not to recognise prior service of employees. If that’s the case, it may be possible for New Boss to implement another probation period, as you describe.

However, if New Boss doesn’t clearly set this out as part of a new contract of employment, which you need to be given as part of the ownership transfer, then you may be able to challenge New Boss if they try to terminate your employment in the future. The most important advice from Sarah is to make sure you get everything in writing from New Boss – preferably in a new contract of employment that clearly sets out how your existing entitlements will be treated as part of the transfer of business.

I work for a large company and in my division there are two teams: Team A and Team B. While the teams have different managers, all members have the same job title and responsibilities, similar salaries and share an office. Team B recently had their pay restructured positively while Team A, which I’m part of, has been told there will be no change. My team feels completely devalued by senior management, who won’t negotiate with us. Do we strike? Should we resign?

I can understand why you feel there has been an injustice in the treatment between the two teams, especially if you have always been encouraged to think of the two teams as being on an equal footing. Before jumping to something as significant as a strike or choosing to resign, I would speak to HR, if you haven’t done so already.

It sounds like the communication of the change has been poor and there hasn’t been a sufficiently credible explanation from your manager for the lack of equal access to a new pay structure. It may be as simple as the manager of Team B being more prepared to fight for a change for their team than your manager. If that is the case, your boss needs to understand the consequences of feeling this level of inequity.

When you speak with HR, make sure you and your colleagues in Team B calmly explain the impact this change – or lack of change – has had on your sense of belonging and appreciation. Most employers will be keen to make sure they have a productive and engaged workforce, and would be eager to find a solution.

My take home pay has been reduced due to recent superannuation changes. I’ve only been with my employer for a few months – it is too early to be asking for a pay rise to cover it? Is there anything else I can do?

It sounds like your employer has taken the half per cent increase to the superannuation guarantee from your overall package, which will impact employees’ take home pay. It is important to have this discussion with your employer when you can, as there will be another half per cent increase in the superannuation guarantee in FY24, then again in FY25.

I would be open and honest with your employer about the impact their decision and this adjustment has had on your financial situation. Best case: it’s an administrative error, which can be rectified. Worst case: you may need to wait until your annual pay review for it to be adjusted. Either way, the payment is yours – since superannuation is your money – it is just that you can’t access it until you retire. Given there’s another superannuation increase coming within 12 months, I would recommend starting the conversation now to ensure you are well-prepared in the future.

To submit a question about work, careers or leadership, visit (you will not be asked to provide your name or any identifying information. Letters may be edited).

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