AIG slams Fair Work Review recommendations on unfair dismissal, general protection claims

The Australian Industry Group has released its analysis of the Fair Work Review’s 55 individual recommendations, slamming a proposal that extends the application deadline for employees lodging unfair dismissal claims.

However, it has welcomed proposals that could help small business, including a reduction in the time allowed for employees to lodge general protections claims, and a recommendation that Fair Work Australia make cost orders against applicants in unfair dismissal cases.

AIG director of industrial relations Stephen Smith says the general protections claims in particular are welcome – the group has found many employees attempt to pass unfair dismissal claims off under general protection rules.

“We’ve got 50 or so advisors assisting companies with unfair dismissals, and we have a lot of experience. What we’re finding is that a lot of cases that should be unfair dismissal cases end up being pursued as general protection cases.”

Smith says employees who cannot apply for unfair dismissal are often encouraged to pursue general protection claims.

As a result, while the AIG has slammed the recommendation to increase the application time limit for unfair dismissal from 14 to 21 days, it has welcomed a similar recommendation for general protection applications. The review suggests the time limit for those applications drop from 60 days to just 21.

“That’s very welcome – but we don’t see any reason why the unfair dismissal time frame should go to 14 days.”

“The original policy was seven days, and then pushed out to 14 in the parliamentary process.”

Smith explains the reduction in the threshold can help stamp out the number of unreasonable claims.

“If people are really aggrieved about dismissal, they’re going to have that in the front of their mind and will deal with it quickly.”

“There is more scope for unwarranted claims the longer the time frame.”

There have been other rejections as well, including one recommendation which proposes businesses contact the FWO in writing or over the internet when an individual flexibility arrangement has been put into place.

But the AIG has welcomed several amendments that help small business, including a recommendation to address the disparity of public holidays caused by states and territories announcing additional days on top of existing federal days.

It also welcomed a recommendation for when employees transfer between divisions. The review recommended employees be bound to the rules and regulations of the new division.

One recommendation, which will see the FWA impose cost orders on unfair dismissal applicants, was also welcomed.

“This is for when people are making unreasonable claims or behaving unreasonably during proceedings, for instance, by withdrawing their applications the day before a hearing, which puts companies at a huge cost.”

“We know small business have wanted that and that’s encouraging to see.”

One recommendation calling for the Federal Government to ignore decisions in both the Barclay and JJ Richards bargaining decisions was also applauded.

“There are numerous flaws here with the area of general protection and exemptions, and we’re glad to see these types of recommendations.”

But Smith says the proposals stop short of providing any significant relief, saying that although individual recommendations provide some cause for support, most of the recommendations don’t fix the fundamental issues affecting small business.

“These few changes are welcome. But in our view, they’re not going to fix the most significant problems.”

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