Unfair dismissal claims are surging because of confusion over the coronavirus shutdown.
The Fair Work Commission says it is dealing with 65 percent more claims than it handled this time last year.
Unfair dismissal claims
New figures reveal the Commission’s workload is up as a result of confusion about dismissals, stand-downs, redundancies and JobKeeper payments.
Commission president Iain Ross says fewer parties are resolving disputes between themselves before being referred to a hearing.
“Reflecting the difficult circumstances that many employers and employees find themselves in, the preparedness of parties to reach agreement through voluntary settlement has also declined.”
The Commission has received 212 disputes about the federal government’s JobKeeper scheme, which covers 5 million people.
Among the top issues causing disputes are:
- changes to employees’ working hours,
- stand downs
- and whether some casual workers are eligible.
But of the 212 cases, 66 percent have been withdrawn by the parties, with just over 60 still active.
JobKeeper allows businesses to change their employees’ hours and roles to help them through the coronavirus shutdown.
However, employers cannot increase a worker’s hours or make them do work that is not related to their regular role.
Employment law firms see increase in inquires
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from My Private Union says his firm is being swamped with inquiries from workers.
“With more than one million Australians losing their job in the past few weeks, there is so much going on right now,” he said.
“And as a result, there is lots of confusion over what a stand down means, and when it is lawful for an employer to stand down staff.
“Additionally we are hearing from workers who believe they have been unfairly dismissed, and want to file a claim.
“And then there is JobKeeper, with some dodgy bosses trying to exploit the system and rip off their workers.”
Justice Ross says the commission has streamlined its processes to deal with JobKeeper disputes and urgent changes to workplace deals.
However, it is still working on a strategy to deal with the influx of unfair dismissal claims “to avoid a backlog of cases that would otherwise develop”.
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