'An inflated assessment of his own capabilities': Paul Heath.

"What happens if I say no?": Paul Heath was not happy when informed about his changing role. Photo: Andrew Quilty

The former boss of JBWere, Paul Heath, has failed in a bid for a redundancy payment after being moved to a new job as part of a restructure by parent company National Australia Bank.

Mr Heath was made chief executive of JBWere in 2009, when it was bought by NAB, on a gross salary of $350,000. According to Fair Work Commission documents, the role was changed in a restructure four years later.

That prompted Mr Heath to make a landmark claim for redundancy as per the conditions in the union-negotiated enterprise bargaining agreement.

The documents show the high-stakes case that followed brought a procession of senior NAB executives into the witness box.

Mr Heath said that at the time of the restructure that over lunch with NAB head of asset management Gary Mulcahey, he had discussed a new job as an executive general manager of wealth advice. But he was not happy.

In a later meeting with wealth group executive Andrew Hagger Mr Heath asked, "What happens if I say no?

Mr Hagger replied, "I don't know because we hadn't thought anybody would say that."

Mr Heath replied that he was going to say no for a number of reasons and "I now expect to be made redundant".

'Diminished role'

In the commission, Mr Heath claimed the new position was a demotion. He also said that his position came with a base salary of $400,000 with the potential for a short-term incentive worth $800,000. The post he was offered had a higher base salary, $550,000 but a potential bonus of only the same amount, meaning he would have been out of pocket.

He continued for some time as JBWere chief executive but argued the role was diminished because he no longer had responsibility for profit and loss, strategy or project governance.

Over the intervening months Mr Heath expressed frustration at not getting a redundancy at the same time as bank management apparently grew unhappy with an information technology project that had blown out to $85 million. Mr Heath denied any responsibility for its problems and was angry that it cost him his bonus.

As relations deteriorated, Mr Heath said Mr Hagger had made a derogatory statement to another executive that "it feels that JBWere exists for the sole purpose of the enrichment of its advisers". Mr Heath eventually resigned.

In ruling against Mr Heath on Tuesday, Fair Work Commission deputy president Peter Sams said his contract clearly explained his duties may change and the changes to JBWere had not left him a "king without a kingdom".

He was curious that Mr Heath refused the new role given its greater leadership.

"Mr Heath had a healthy but rather inflated assessment of his own capabilities, skills and worth to the bank," he said.

"While there is nothing inherently wrong in having an exaggerated view of one's self worth, it is not a reasonable basis to choose what job you are prepared to take and insist on redundancy if none are acceptable."

He also cast doubt over whether the commission had jurisdiction to hear the dispute.