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Warning! Casual Employee Entitled to Annual Leave

In a major decision, the Full Bench of the Federal Court has held that a worker expressly engaged as a casual was entitled to annual leave and other entitlements upon termination.

In our view, in doing so the Court has cast doubt on decades of accepted industrial practices and the decision threatens to undermine casual employment relationships around the country.

The Facts

In WorkPac Pty Ltd v Skene:

  • the employee was employed by a labour-hire company in the mining industry as a dump-truck operator and the employment was governed by the WorkPac Pty Ltd Mining (Coal) Industry Workplace Agreement 2007 (Agreement)
  • although the letter of employment stated he was a casual, he was subject to a continuous 7 day ‘fly-in, fly-out’ pre-set roster arrangement, worked regular and systematic shifts, stayed in accommodation at/near the mine and was expected to attend each shift
  • an ‘all-in flat rate’ of pay was payable for each hour of work although WorkPac did not specify what entitlements this flat rate of pay purported to absorb
  • Continue reading…

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New – Fixed Term Contracts Expose Employers to Unfair Dismissal

In a decision that upends a decade of legal precedent, the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission has opened the door for employees engaged under fixed or specified-term contracts to bring unfair dismissal claims at the end of their contract term.

It has long been accepted that:

  • employers are free to structure their affairs, including the contracts they offer to employees, in the way that they think best suits their interests
  • this freedom has led to the proliferation of fixed-term or maximum-term contracts
  • where these types of employment agreements expire at the conclusion of their term, employees are not eligible to bring unfair dismissal claims because the expiry of the agreement does not result in a ‘termination of employment at the employer’s initiative’

However, in the recent decision of Khayam v Navitas English Pty Ltd:

  • a dark cloud has emerged over the above held principles
  • a distinction was drawn between:
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New – Variations to Casual/Part-Time Rules in Modern Awards

The Fair Work Commission has varied a number of Modern Awards to include additional provisions and protections for casual and part-time employees.

In summary of the Fair Work Commission’s decision:

  • the affected Awards include:
    • Fast Food Industry Award 2010
    • General Retail Industry Award 2010
    • Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010
    • Hospitality Industry (General) Award 2010
    • Restaurant Industry Award 2010
    • Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010
  • it varied clauses dealing with casual and part-time employment in 11 Modern Awards, with one other scheduled for variation
  • each variation is specific to the Award concerned (so the wording varies)
  • in essence though the variations:
    • (a) give casual employees the right to elect to have their employment converted to full-time or part-time employment
    • (b) provide greater flexibility in the rostering of hours of part-time employees in certain occupations and industries
    • (c) confirm that casual employees who work in excess of ordinary hours in a day or week are entitled to overtime penalty rates
    • Continue reading…

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Employment Law – Bupa Criticised for Disciplinary Process

Employment Law – Background 

The Fair Work Commission has found that a vulnerable aged care worker was unfairly dismissed due to her employer, Bupa Aged Care, acted unconscionably. Bupa were criticized for their “unprofessional, discourteous and unfair” disciplinary process.

Employment Law – Facts 

In essence:

  • Shahin Tavassoli, a refugee from Iran with limited English skills, was employed by Bupa
  • On the weekend of 13-14 November 2016, a colleague secretly recorded her on his mobile singing “I can do anything better than you” following a heated exchange between a resident and a nurse and also allegedly laughing and joking at the death of two residents
  • A second video, recorded the following day, allegedly captured her sitting in the TV room ignoring resident’s buzzers
  • These videos were shown to David Brice, acting general manager of Bupa Mosman a Miriam Lyman, care manger
  • On 16 November, Tavassoli attended work training. However, at 2pm Brice escorted her from the premises, only telling her that there had been serious allegations made against her and he was waiting for more documentation in a few hours.
  • Continue reading…

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Employment Law – Dismissal for Drug Test Refusal Invalid

Employment Law – Background

The Fair Work Commission has held that a company who dismissed an employee for refusing to provide a blood sample for a drug test had no valid reason to do so.

Employment Law – Facts

In essence:

  • Green was employed by Lincon Hire & Sales as a work platform operator
  • On 1 March 2017, Lincon received anonymous information that the employee and others were using drugs
  • Lincon’s drug and alcohol policy allows random drug testing, and asserts that refusal to partake will be considered a positive test, allowing for potential disciplinary action, including dismissal
  • On 6 March 2017 all employees underwent a drug test. Green provided a negative sample. However, Lincon received further anonymous messages claiming that Green and others had used substitute samples
  • On 7 March 2017, Green was informed he had to undergo a blood test because the previous tests had been “fudged”
  • Employees, including Green, felt that a blood test was an invasion of privacy and Green offered to do a urine test instead
  • Continue reading…

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Employment Law – Employee Compensated After Award Obligations Ignored

Employment Law – Background

The Fair Work Commission has compensated an employee who was unfairly dismissed because her employer failed to comply with their consultation obligations under the relevant award.

Employment Law – Facts

In essence:

  • Carer’s that Care (CTC) terminated Ms Morris’ employment because it could not afford to pay her full-time wage after losing a significant number of clients
  • Ms Morris argued that she hadn’t received any warnings but was only told that CTC was shutting down and staff would be made redundant
  • She also argued that she was not provided with the opportunity to respond, because the managing director refused to have any discussions with Morris
  • Morris lodged an application for unfair dismissal

Employment Law – The Relevant Law

  • Section 389 of the Fair Work Act (‘The Act’) states that a genuine redundancy occurs when an employee’s position is no longer required and the employer has complied with any obligations under the modern award or enterprise agreement
  • Continue reading…

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Employment Law – No Compensation for Employee who fibbed on CV

Employment Law – Background

The Fair Work Commission has held that a company’s failure to provide notice to a finance manager rendered her termination unfair. However in an interesting turn of events, declined to award compensation because she “deliberately deceived” them of her qualifications.

 

Employment Law – Facts

In essence:

  • In her application for an accountancy role at Spectrum Community Focus Limited, the manager claimed that her qualifications included “ASA-CPA Australia” (an associate member, who had six years to complete training to become a full member of the professional body for accountants) and had an MBA
  • She later became the finance manager, reporting directly to the CEO and board of directors and responsible for preparing financial reports
  • In November in the lead up to her dismissal, she made several blunders including failing to file the company’s return to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) by the required time frame. She also made several mistakes with the 2015 reports, including not reporting an apparent $600,000 loss to the managing director
  • Continue reading…

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Fair Work Commission – Settlement Prevents Dismissal Claim

The Fair Work Commission has thrown out an unfair dismissal application because the employee had previously agreed to a settlement with his employer.

Facts

In essence:

  • In November 2016, Mr Singh was dismissed from his team leader role at Sydney Trains after an investigation into two safety incidents in August 2015
  • Singh was dismissed for failure to follow safety policies, procedures and guidelines whilst working in a safety critical location, causing significant risk of harm to himself, his team and the public
  • He applied for unfair dismissal under s 394 of the Fair Work Act
  • On 13 February, Singh’s solicitor wrote to Sydney Trains solicitor proposing terms of settlement, including that Singh be re-employed in an administrative role
  • Sydney Trains replied adding various qualifications regarding medical assessments and the requirement that a deed of release be signed
  • The deed of release was given to Singh and he agreed to settle the application in principle based on the terms in the draft deed.
  • Continue reading…