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Unfair Dismissal Cases and Eligibility

Reading time: 8 mins

Unfair dismissal means that you think your termination was harsh, unfair or unreasonable.

The principle of unfair dismissal is a critical aspect of employment law that protects employees from unjust termination.

This article delves into eligibility requirements or unfair dismissal applications and significant cases of unfair dismissal. These cases help us understand what is fair and unfair when someone loses their job.

If you believe your employer has unfairly terminated your employment, promptly seek advice from an experienced unfair dismissal lawyer.

Key Takeaways

  • Eligibility requirements apply to unfair dismissal applications.
  • Unfair dismissal cases highlight evolving interpretations of ‘fair’ and ‘unfair’ employment terminations.
  • If a company does not comply with orders, the Federal Court can impose additional penalties.
  • Unfair dismissal can lead to fines, reinstatement and/or compensation.
  • Proper procedures, such as providing an opportunity to respond to allegations, are critical. Failure to follow due process can render a dismissal unfair even if there’s a valid reason for termination.

Unfair Dismissal Eligibility

In Australia, employees must meet specific requirements to claim unfair dismissal.

These requirements involve working for a minimum amount of time and falling under the coverage of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Fair Work Act).

To be eligible to make an unfair dismissal application the employee must:

  • have completed the minimum period of employment (either six months, or one year for small businesses)

AND

  • earn less than the high income threshold (which is currently $167,500 per year); or
  • have coverage under a modern award; or
  • have coverage under an enterprise agreement.

Other factors may also impact eligibility, such as employment status.

You cannot submit an unfair dismissal application if the dismissal was:

You can only make one claim at a time about the termination of your employment.

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Unfair Dismissal Cases

Meadley v Sort Worx Pty Ltd

  • Irene Meadley was an employee of Sort Worx Pty Ltd (formerly Gippsland Waste). Her position was a weighbridge operator and unload monitor. She commenced employment on 29 December 2008. 
  • The company dismissed her on 24 July 2012. She applied to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for an unfair dismissal remedy.
  • The Commission found that her dismissal was unfair because there had been no valid reason for it. It ordered her reinstatement and compensation of $24,143 in May 2013. The company appealed the decision but later discontinued the appeal.
  • The company failed to comply with the Commission’s orders. Ms Meadley applied to the Federal Court for enforcement and penalty.

Ruling

  • The Court found that the company deliberately ignored the Commission’s orders. Which is a serious disregard and contravention of the Fair Work Act.
  • The company received a $10,000 fine. The court ordered the company pay the fine to Ms Meadley.
  • Ms Meadley also received an additional $15,045 in redundancy pay, lost wages, notice and accrued leave entitlements, plus interest.

Fair Work Ombudsman v Indian Food Catering Pty Ltd & Anor

Key Facts

  • Indian Food Catering Pty Ltd employed Mr Singh as a cook. Mr Gummi controls the company.
  • Mr Gummi terminated Mr Singh’s employment on 27 March 2018. Mr Singh lodged an application for an unfair dismissal remedy with the Commission.
  • The Commission found that his termination was unfair and ordered the company first to pay him $18,000 in compensation. They were to give compensation in six instalments. The company failed to comply with the order and only paid $7,000 to Mr Singh.
  • The Fair Work Ombudsman brought proceedings against the company and Mr Gummi for contravening the FWC order.

Ruling

  • The company and Mr Gummi contravened the Fair Work Act and agreed to pay the outstanding balance of $5,008.
  • The court imposed a penalty of $5,000 on the company, payable to the Commonwealth.

Remedies

If the Commission finds a dismissal was unfair, it may order fines, compensation or reinstatement. An employee can only receive compensation for lost income.

An employee does not always receive compensation, even if the dismissal was unfair. The Commission may order employers to reinstate employees instead.

The Commission does not make compensation orders for reasons such as pain and suffering, shock, distress, hurt or embarrassment.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between a fair and an unfair dismissal?

A fair dismissal happens when there is a good reason for dismissing someone and the process is fair and reasonable.

On the other hand, an unfair dismissal happens when the termination is unjust or unreasonable. Often because of a lack of a valid reason or a failure to follow due process by the employer.

The Commission determines unfair dismissal cases individually. They will take into account the unique circumstances of each case. Speak to an experienced unfair dismissal lawyer to learn more information.

Yes, even when employers have dismissed an employee for a valid reason. Employees may have grounds for an unfair dismissal claim if the employer does not follow proper procedures.

For example, not providing the employee with an opportunity to respond to the allegations against them. In such cases, the lack of procedural fairness may deem the dismissal unfair.

We can help your business determine the correct path if you find you must dismiss an employee.

Due process involves following fair and reasonable procedures in the dismissal process.

This includes:

  • providing the employee with an opportunity to respond to the allegations against them;
  • conducting a thorough workplace investigation; and
  • giving the employee a chance to improve their performance before considering termination.

 

The dismissal could be unfair if you don’t follow proper processes.

Some common defences used by employers in unfair dismissal cases include:

  • demonstrating a valid reason for dismissal;
  • proving that the dismissal was not harsh, unjust, or unreasonable;
  • arguing that the dismissal was a result of the employee’s performance or conduct;
  • the dismissal was necessary for the requirements of the business; or
  • otherwise showing that the employee was not eligible to make an unfair dismissal claim.

The high income threshold determines the maximum income an employee can earn to be eligible for unfair dismissal claims. If an employee’s income exceeds this threshold, they may not be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal.

This may not be the case if an award or enterprise agreement covers them.

Learn more about high income thresholds and unfair dismissal claims in our article.

About the Author

Farrah Motley
Director of Prosper Law. Farrah founded Prosper online law firm in 2021. She wanted to create a better way of doing legal work and a better experience for customers of legal services.

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