'In principle' agreement not binding: dismissal claim goes ahead

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'In principle' agreement not binding: dismissal claim goes ahead

The Fair Work Commission has ruled that a binding settlement had not been reached at a conciliation conference, therefore an unfair dismissal claim could proceed.

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An employee who refused to sign a deed of release, agreed to in principle in the Fair Work Commission, has been granted approval to pursue his unfair dismissal claim.

The commission ruled that a final and binding settlement had not been reached at a conciliation conference.

Facts of case


Mahesh Manna lodged a claim of unfair dismissal against his employer.

The FWC presided over a conciliation conference which resulted in an “in principle” agreement between the parties that was to be confirmed by a deed of release prepared by the commission.

Mr Manna requested alterations to his Employment Separation Certificate and an opportunity to consult Centrelink before signing the deed. The FWC allowed him seven days to do the latter and the employer agreed to amend the certificate within seven days.

However, Mr Manna then advised the FWC that he would not sign the deed and requested that his claim of unfair dismissal be determined.

The arguments


Mr Manna claimed that he had received legal advice from Centrelink. He also claimed it would take 17 weeks to finalise his dismissal claim because of problems dealing with Centrelink.

The employer claimed that the parties had agreed on a settlement and the employee could not now walk away from it. It had also promptly made the requested amendments to his separation certificate, which it claimed made the agreement binding.

In issue


The FWC had to decide whether the parties had reached a binding settlement of the claim. The judgment discussed the meaning of “binding settlement”.

Decision


The parties had not reached a final and binding agreement at the conciliation conference. The employee had requested some amendments and time to consult Centrelink, so the parties were not to be immediately bound by what was agreed to that day.

The FWC directed that the case proceed to a hearing.

The bottom line: Unless both parties have agreed there will be no further amendments, it is very unlikely that an unsigned deed of release will be regarded as a final and binding agreement.

Read the judgment


Manna v Tee-Zed Products Pty Ltd t/a Dreambaby [2018] FWC 4561, 7 August 2018
 
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