Unfair dismissal claims account for more than a third of disputes between employers and employees, according to data released on Tuesday by employment relations specialist Employsure.
A total of 17,806 unfair dismissal claims from employees were lodged with the Fair Work Commission in 2014, amounting to 70 claims a day.
Employsure analysed 990 inbound calls it received from employers between February 2014 and May 2015 and found more than a third of calls were from employers seeking advice about unfair dismissal claims from employees.
Of the employers seeking advice about unfair dismissal claims, 12% of the claims were about serious misconduct in the workplace and another 12% were about misconduct.
Ten per cent of the cases involved redundancies, while another 7% involved employee performance issues.
“There is no doubt this is a major issue for employers,” Employsure managing director Edward Mallett said in a statement.
“Unfair dismissal was brought about to protect employees from unjust employers. However, the number of claims has blown out.”
But Mallett says the actual number of unfair dismissal claims made by employees in Australia is likely much higher as some claims are settled internally before they go as far as the Fair Work Commission.
“Because it is such a prevalent issue, employers needs to ensure they have robust policies in place to be clear and equitable in these matters,” Mallett said.
Peter Strong, executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia, told SmartCompany this morning reforming the unfair dismissal regime is an issue the Productivity Commission “absolutely” has to address in its current review of the nation’s workplace relations system.
“There is confusion around the whole thing,” Strong says.
“It’s complex and unfair, and even the definition of an unfair dismissal works on the side of employees.”
Strong says unfair dismissal protections should guard against genuinely wrongful dismissals but navigating the procedures to terminate an employee is difficult for smaller businesses, which don’t have the same level of resources as the big end of town.
“The procedures still require experts and pay clerks, the whole thing is built for big business,” he says.