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That’s not fair!


On a webinar last week, the Fair Work Commission’s President, Justice Iain Ross, estimated that there had been an increase in unfair dismissal claims by 60% in April, when compared to the same time last year. Additionally, he indicated that General Protections claims were up more than 20%. Why is it so?

As employers have struggled to respond to the ever changing employment landscape that has been presented by COVID-19, the making of business related decisions that have adversely impacted the employment relationship have needed to be made swiftly and, at times, without precedence. It’s safe to say that no employer has escaped, in some way, being impacted by the extraordinary nature of the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic are presenting.

Employers are not alone in dealing with this unique employment landscape, with Governments and relevant departments and tribunals needing to respond accordingly. For the first time, we have seen the:

  • Fair Work Act’s Stand Down provisions truly put to the test and implemented across workforces.
  • Modern Awards amended swiftly, allowing employers in many industries to reduce the hours of work of their employees,
  • Government pass a bill and implement the Job Keeper Payment Scheme over a matter of weeks, with questions being asked and answered on the fly.

With so much change taking place, the requirement to react to an unprecedented situation presented by COVID-19 and legislation being made and implemented quickly, it’s no surprise that not everyone is happy with some business decisions. Their response is to lodge a claim for Unfair Dismissal or General Protections, which is the reason for the spike in claims.

While many of the changes listed above favour employers and provide an avenue to make sweeping changes, it’s important to consider that at some point employers may be required to defend their decision, through an Unfair Dismissal or a General Protections claim. What’s important for employers is that business decisions are made with the best intent in mind. Our advice is to communicate early with employees, maintain an open and transparent consultation process, use Policy as it is intended to be used and make decisions following lines of procedural and substantive fairness.

Interested to learn more?

If you would like to know more about best practices associated with workplace change, please contact us and a Mapien consultant will get back to you ASAP.  Alternatively please call us on +61 7 3833 1200.

Jamie Paterson
With over 18 years’ experience as a human resources professional within large multi-national organisations, Jamie provides tailored employment relations solutions across geographically diverse operations focusing on all aspects of leading and managing people and practically applying his expertise in HR/IR strategy, leadership coaching, enterprise bargaining, and functional/operational auditing processes.