Viewing entries tagged
unfair dismissal

STRESS NOT ENOUGH TO EXTEND TIME

Two recent decisions of the Fair Work Commission have demonstrated the difficulty employees face if they do not lodge their unfair dismissal applications within the 21 day period.

In the first instance the employee was two years and two months late (Ellikuttige v Moonee Valley Racing Club [2017] FWC 4829) and in the other the employee was 21 days late (Michnik v Silver Chain [2017] FWC 4804).

Both decisions reviewed what “exceptional circumstances” mean in the context where the Fair Work Commission can extend the time in which to lodge an unfair dismissal application.

“Exceptional circumstances” is to be given its ordinary meaning.

For something to be exceptional it need not be unique, unprecedented or very rare but it needs to be something more than is regularly or routinely or normally encountered.

Both dismissed employees relied on stress for seeking an extension of time to lodge their unfair dismissal applications.

However, because stress is a routine reaction when people are dismissed from their employment this was not a factor that the Commission in both cases was prepared to accept could be “exceptional”.

For more information or advice on how to deal with extensions of time contact our workplace relations team.

Workplace Dismissal - Who do you believe?

But I’m telling the truth!

What happens when the parties to a case have varying accounts of what was said and done? Who is to be believed?

In the matter of Ashley Duddington v Mario and Clara Enterprises Pty Ltd and Morgan Trading Pty Ltd, a former restaurant manager made an unfair dismissal claim against his former employer.

The parties, who were not legally represented, provided very different versions of the events that took place leading up to the termination.

Without any physical evidence to prove what actually happened, the responsibility fell on Deputy President Bull to establish the truth.

In his judgment, Deputy President Bull noted that he had significant difficulty with the employer’s evidence, which he described as “contradictory and evasive” and noted that clear answers were not provided to some of the questions asked.

As a consequence, Deputy President Bull made the decision to accept the evidence of the employee whenever the evidence of the parties was in conflict.  

The Commission found that the employee was unfairly dismissed without notice or a valid reason and made orders for each party to make submissions about the compensation to be awarded.

The best lesson to learn here is to put everything in writing! The Fair Work Commission is not bound by the rules of evidence, but help yourself and help your case and take notes of everything that is said and done when it comes to performance management and disciplinary matters.

If all else fails, you will need to rely on detailed submissions and oral evidence; this is where an experienced legal representative can help! If you are an employee or an employer in an unfair dismissal or general protections claim, call the Workplace Relations team at Nevett Ford on 9614 7111 to answer all your questions.

 

Unfair Dismissals and Penalties

The vast majority of applications for unfair dismissals are discontinued.

Generally, this means that employers and employees have reached agreement so that a formal decision or order of the Fair Work Commission is not required.

Where negotiation does not result in resolution, any order for reinstatement or the payment of compensation made by the Commission can have further consequences for an employer if it is not obeyed.

If you are an employer and ordered to pay $2,200 as compensation for a dismissal found to be unfair, you would be required to pay it even if you needed time to do so and even if you disagreed with the decision.

You would not put yourself in a position where the Fair Work Ombudsman successfully applied to the Federal Circuit Court for $47,000 worth of penalties because your failure to pay $2,200 was a breach of section 405 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

This has happened and is a cautionary reminder to employers.

Unfair Dismissal – Your worker has been with you for HOW long?

How long does an employee have to be employed before they’re eligible to make an unfair dismissal claim?  The short answer is “that depends on the size of your business.”  If you’re a small business, the employee will have 12 months before they can claim eligibility. If you employ more than twelve employees, they will only have six months. But how is that six months calculated?

In Emma Wells v ABC Blinds & Awnings [2016] FWC 8260 the worker was employed between 4 February 2016 and 4 August 2016. She was originally engaged as a casual employee for the first three months and was later offered a permanent position, which she retained for another three months.

It’s important to note that during her casual employment, the worker worked regularly on a roster based system and took two days of unpaid leave within this period. 

The worker was sacked shortly after arriving at work on 4 August 2016 – exactly six months after her first day of work with the Employer.

The Employer argued that 1) the Applicant’s service as casual employee should not be included when calculating continuous service and 2) if the casual employment were deemed to be included, her continuous service would not add up to six months as she had taken two days off during that time. 

The Fair Work Commission found that the Applicant’s employment was regular and systematic and therefore it could be included as part of her continuous service.

However, in light of the unpaid leave taken during her casual employment, the Applicant was found not to have served the minimum employment period, meaning she was not a person protected from unfair dismissal and her application was dismissed.  

So what are the lessons here?

  1. A worker’s casual employment may be classified as continuous service for the purposes of the unfair dismissal laws depending on the regularity of their work schedule and also their expectations of future employment.

  2. Any unpaid leave taken during casual employment will not break an employee’s continuous service, but it will also not contribute their continuous service with an employer.

If this all sounds too confusing and overwhelming, never fear! Call one of the workplace relations lawyers at Nevett Ford on (03) 9614 7111 for advice and assistance on all of your employment law matters.