How Fair is Fairwork legislation?

After two years in operation, there is about to be a report released on the Fairwork Legislation by the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations in May 2012. This report is expected to draw conclusion about whether or not this act is meeting its objectives and include any recommendations for the future.

Taken from the briefing paper prepared in January 2012 for comment by industry, the Fairwork Legislation Act is apparently offering new protection for workplace rights. These changes mean that the act has the potential to go further than it has previously gone.

The report covers a range of other issues, but in this blog we will discuss the subject of general claims/unfair dismissal claims.

Firstly, a general application must be made within 60 days whereas an unfair dismissal claim must be made within 14 days.There is such a disparity of time frames between these two processes that it would not be surprising to be confused, let alone have time to clearly decide on the best course of action.

Business and employer groups also report that many general protections claims could be a substitute for unfair dismissal claims by employees who are excluded from access to the unfair dismissal jurisdiction. Furthermore, the amount of damages that can be sought for a general protections claim is not capped, but it is for unfair dismissal claims.

The report released by Fairwork Australia (F.W.A) indicates that the last 2 years there appears to have been an increase in general claims occurring consequently given the above circumstances associated with the unfair dismissal laws.

F.W.A data shows an increase in usage by employees of the general protections dismissal jurisdiction. Figures released from their annual report indicated that these claims increased from 1,188 in 2009-2010 to 1,871 in the current reporting period which represents an increase of almost 60%

General claims may be on the increase but this may be directly related to the fact that that lodgement of an unfair dismissal claims in 14 days, isfar too restrictive at the present moment.
When a dismissal occurs individuals are likely to be too distressed and find it very difficult to take any appropriate action. During this time-period, they will be trying to get over the shock and so have very little opportunity to take action!

So it is of little wonder, that general claims have increased and that this situation has added to the reduced levels of productivity commented on previously. The classic example is that of recent sacked car workers last week, despite some having been employed for many years!

Stay tuned for this final report to be released in May once industry groups have made comment to Fairwork Australia. Has anyone heard of any current claims being heard and what has happened?



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