Federal unfair dismissals amendments

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Federal unfair dismissals amendments

The federal government today introduced a new Bill, the Workplace Relations Amendment (Unfair Dismissals) Bill 1998, into Parliament.

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The federal government today introduced a new Bill, the Workplace Relations Amendment (Unfair Dismissals) Bill 1998, into Parliament. It is intended to exclude small businesses (employing 15 or fewer employees) from unfair dismissal applications and to extend the probationary period to six months. Exclusion of small employers from unfair dismissal claims has been rejected by the Senate on two previous occasions.

Conceptually, the Bill operates by preventing applications alleging the dismissal was ‘unfair’ (ie harsh, unjust or unreasonable) unless the applicant

  • was ‘first employed’ prior to the amendments coming into effect (an existing employee, in which case the current situation applies); or
  • is an apprentice or trainee (in which case the current situation applies); or
  • was ‘first employed’ after the amendments came into effect; and
    • has been employed for at least six months; and
    • was not employed by a ‘small’ employer (in which case the applicant can claim unfair dismissal);

A ‘small employer’ is one which employs no more than 15 employees. The number of employees is determined by counting employees at the time of termination and comprises the applicant, other non-casual employees and casual employees who have been engaged ‘…on a regular and systematic basis for a sequence of periods of employment of at least 12 months’.

The Bill does not disturb current provisions relation to ‘unlawful termination’ (ie termination on a ‘prohibited’ ground; failure to notify the CES in the event of redundancies involving 15 or more employees; failure to provide prescribed notice).

 

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