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COVID-19 causing a huge surge in unfair dismissal claims

The number of dismissal claims had jumped by more than 70%.
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COVID-19 causing a huge surge in unfair dismissal claims

COVID-19 causing a huge surge in unfair dismissal claims

27 May 2020

The Fair Work Commission has been inundated with a record spike in the number of unfair dismissal claims due to the coronavirus pandemic. Fair Work Commission’s general manager, Bernadette O'Neill has said the number of dismissal claims had jumped by more than 70 per cent.

An internal review linked the rise in claims to increasing unemployment and retrenchment rates as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms O'Neill said.

"What I would say is the increase in unfair dismissals has been unprecedented, significantly higher than from any other period that we from our records"

When asked whether the increase in claims was higher than what we saw during the global financial crisis, Ms O’Neill said, “I think that is absolutely the case.

“I don’t have the 2008–09 figures in front of me. Of course, at that time, 2009, the Fair Work Act commenced and the whole jurisdiction of employment was consolidated, so it might be difficult to draw a direct parallel, but there’s no doubt that what we’ve seen in terms of a spike is unprecedented, as I’ve said.”

Government industrial relations official Martin Hehir said the crisis had sparked high rates of job losses, "It's not surprising that we're seeing an escalation in things such as unfair dismissal," he said. The unemployment rate recorded its biggest one-month jump on record, rising to 6.2 per cent from 5.2 in March.

Ms O'Neill said the surge in unfair dismissal claims had prompted the commission to ask the government for increased resources. Meanwhile, the federal government has lowered the minimum notice period for worker votes on changes to enterprise agreements from seven days to one. Since the change, there have been 30 applications for changes to pay and conditions with 14 giving less than seven days' notice. Three have used the minimum one day notice for a vote.

According to the Treasury’s predictions, unemployment will hit its peak at 10 per cent by end-June.

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