Tag

unfair dismissal lawyers Archives - Anderson Gray

what is unfair dismissal?

Heavy fines for franchisee’s record keeping breaches

By | Workplace Rights and Entitlements

A former Franchisee operator and the company’s owner have been handed down large penalties for a number of record keeping breaches after a Fair Work Ombudsman investigation.

Background

In Fair Work Ombudsman v Aulion Pty Ltd (‘Aulion’) and Peter Dagher were ordered to pay pecuniary penalties of $80,190.00 and $16,038.00, respectively, after Judge Street of the Federal Circuit Court found that they had falsified employee records related to pay and failed to provide payslips on time.

The Fair Work Ombudsman brought the Application in the Federal Circuit Court alleging that Aulion and Mr Dagher had engaged in various breaches of the Fair Work Regulations 2009 that related to the accuracy and keeping of employee records.

The Ombudsman had previously used its powers under the Fair Work Act 2009 to audit Aulion when it issued notices to produce various documents relating to employees pay in 2016. Aulion provided the documents, however, the Ombudsman suspected that the documents it received were not accurate and continued to investigate. After reviewing bank, superannuation and accounting records, the Ombudsman brought action in the Federal Circuit Court against the Aulion and Mr Dagher.

In Court, Aulion admitted that it had misled the Ombudsman and provided false documents and records. Mr Dagher was involved in the contraventions. The Ombudsman Natalie James, said, “False records at this Caltex outlet were so bad we couldn’t properly audit the biz to determine underpayments. Pleased even higher penalties will apply in the future.

Penalties

Previously, the largest penalty that a court could impose for breaches related to employees wages and entitlements was $10,800. After the recently implemented Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017, the maximum is now $108,000. The Ombudsman, Natalie James, said that the penalties were “the highest penalty yet in court action solely for record keeping & payslip breaches.

The large penalties reflect the impact the amendments will have on Courts ability to penalise employers breaching civil remedy provisions of the Fair Work Act 2009 that relate to record keeping. The amendments mean that multiple and continuous breaches of record keeping provisions give Courts discretion to invoke larger penalties.

Lessons for employers (and employees)

The most important take-away from the case is that employers ensure that they maintain and manage their employee pay records with the utmost care. The Fair Work Ombudsman’s combination of powers in relation to production of documents and the higher penalties that Courts can now order against employers and individuals involved in contraventions means that the risk for employers who aren’t willing to comply with their obligations is significantly higher.

Employees should be encouraged that the Ombudsman and the Commonwealth Parliament seem more and more willing to ensure that their interests are being protected under the Act.

Judge Street is yet to publish reasons for the decision.

Need help with an unfair dismissal claim?

who is protected from unfair dismissal

Who is Protected from Unfair Dismissal?

By | Unfair Dismissal

Persons Protected from Unfair Dismissal

If you are an employee, you are protected from unfair dismissal if:

  • your employer is an employer who is covered by the Fair Work Act; and
  • you meet the eligibility requirements set out in the Fair Work Act.

Is my employer required to comply with the Fair Work Act?

If an employer is a ‘National System Employer’, then they are required to comply with the rules set out in the Fair Work Act.  A National System Employer includes:

  • private enterprise employers in New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia;
  • private enterprise and local government employers in Tasmania;
  • the Commonwealth and Commonwealth authorities;
  • all employers in Victoria (with limited exceptions in relation to some State public sector employees), the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory;
  • all employees on Norfolk Island, the Territory of Christmas Island and the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands;
  • the employers of waterside employees, maritime employees and flight crew officers in interstate or overseas trade or commerce; and
  • employers that are constitutional corporations in Western Australia (including Pty Ltd companies)—this may include some local governments and authorities.

The following employers are not National System Employers?

  • Local Government employers in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia;
  • State government employers in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania;
  • Employers that are individuals, sole trader, partnerships and trusts in Western Australia; and
  • Employers of employees in the public sector in Victoria who hold high managerial positions.

What are the eligibility requirements?

An employee can make an application for unfair dismissal if they meet the following criteria:

  • you have completed the minimum period of employment. The minimum period is either 6 months if you work for an employer who employs 15 or more employees or 12 months if you work for an employer who has less than 15 employees. The number of employees is calculated by a simple headcount of all employees, including casual employees who are employed on a regular and systematic basis at the time of dismissal; and
  • you are employed pursuant to an industrial instrument such as an Award or enterprise bargaining agreement; or

If you are a not employed pursuant to an industrial instrument and you earn more than the high income threshold then the Fair Work Commission will not have jurisdiction to hear a complaint for unfair dismissal – although, there may be other remedies available to you.

However, if you earn more than the high income threshold but a modern award or enterprise agreement covers your employment you can still be eligible. Contact Anderson Gray Lawyers to find out more if you think this applies to you.

Anderson Gray Lawyers are lawyers for employees and are unfair dismissal experts.  If you feel you have been unfairly dismissed from your employment, don’t hesitate to contact us today! We have offices in Brisbane, Sydney, and Melbourne.

unfair dismissal compensation

Can You Get Compensation for Unfair Dismissal?

By | Unfair Dismissal

Unfair Dismissal Compensation

The Fair Work Commission is the workplace relations tribunal that will consider your application for unfair dismissal. There are a number of remedies available to you if the Commission determines that you have been unfairly dismissed. These include:

  • reinstating you back into the job you were dismissed from; and/or
  • compensation (this is capped at 26 weeks pay).

The Commission will seek to have your job reinstated (if practical) or into a new position that is similar in hours, responsibilities and pay. If this occurs, you will also be entitled to back pay. The Commission may also make an order that your continuity of employment will be maintained and that there will be no break in your service or accrual of entitlements.

However, if it is not practical or reasonable to reinstate you (if a working relationship is not going to work), then alternatively compensation may be ordered as a remedy. Compensation is capped at 26 weeks pay and the total amount of compensation able to be awarded is half of the high income threshold amount that applies immediately before the dismissal.

Any payments that:

  • are made to you by your employer, such as: notice payments; or
  • anything you may earn after you were dismissed by your employer;
  • will be taken into account by the Commission when it calculates the amount of compensation to be awarded.

You will not be awarded compensation for shock, distress or humiliation.

Conciliation Conferences

Did you know that you can also go to Conciliation?

Conciliation is a voluntary informal process to resolving disputes of unfair dismissal.

You and your employer can agree to a Conciliation and try and resolve the dispute in relation to your dismissal at the Conciliation. This means that if you can settle at Conciliation you do not need to go to a formal conference or hearing.

A Conciliation is private and you and your employer and the Conciliator will discuss the dispute and whether you and your employer may agree to a settlement. Settlements between you and your employer may include the following:

  • reinstatement of your job;
  • monetary settlement (compensation);
  • an apology from your employer;
  • a written statement of service from your employer;
  • payment of entitlements that have been unpaid and are owed to you by your employer (such as notice or leave payments); and/or
  • an agreement that you and your employer will not disparage (belittle or bad mouth) each other.

If you cannot reach a settlement then you can proceed to a formal hearing and the Commission will determine if you have been unfairly dismissed and if you will get your job back and/or any compensation.

Anderson Gray Lawyers are unfair dismissal experts in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. If you need any further information about unfair dismissal and the options available to you, don’t hesitate to contact us today!

Am I being paid enough? What is my right rate of pay?

By | Workplace Rights and Entitlements

Am I getting the right amount of pay?

You would think this is a simple question, but it’s not.  There is no doubt that today’s workplace laws are complicated.  So it is no wonder that employees have difficulty in trying to work out what their rate of pay should be in return for a days hard work.

To work out the minimum rate of you are entitled first requires you to work out whether or not you are covered by an award.  An essential feature of an award is to prescribe the rate of pay for all employees covered by that particular award.

While trying to work out what particular award applies to you is difficult, we have set out below a simple process that is designed to give you some guidance.  So:

  • Step 1, review the award title to see if it might apply. For example, employees in the construction industry, might start by looking at the Building and Construction Onsite Award 2010, because, as the name suggests, it applies to that industry.
  • Step 2, go to clause 4 of the Award (it’s the same clause for all Modern Awards) and look to see whether the award covers the industry in which your employer operates. If it does, then that award is likely to apply to you.  If the award does not cover the industry in which your employer operates, then you’ll need to look at other awards to see if they might apply.
  • Step 3, turn to the classification definitions (usually found at Appendix B), and read through the classifications to identify the classification that best fits the actual duties you do on a day-to-day basis.
  • Step 4, check the rate of pay that relates to your classification of work in the body of the Award.

You must remember that the award sets out your minimum rate of pay.  So if you are not being paid the amount that relates to your classification of work under the award, then you might be being underpaid.

If you have a contract of employment that also sets out a rate of pay, then the rate of pay stipulated in the contract must be equal to or more than the rate you are required to be paid as set by the award.  If the contract states that your pay is less than the award rate, then again, you might not be being paid the right amount.

If the contract amount is more than the award rate, then for your ordinary hours of work, you’re probably going to be being paid the correct amount.  However, if you work more than 38 hours per week (on a full time basis), or more than the agreed hours (if you are a part-time employee), then the rate of pay needs to adjust to take account of your entitlement to overtime and/or penalty rates.

If you have any questions contact one our experienced employment lawyers.


Photo by James Sutton on Unsplash

Managing your Employer

By | Unfair Dismissal

How and When to Manage Your Employer

Managing employees is a topic that is regularly discussed and debated by employers, lawyers and academics.

When you look for information about workplace laws and rights you find almost every text and article written on the topic of the employee and employer relationship relates to the rights and practices of employers and not employees.  The literature predominantly deals with managing employees in various circumstances.  An explanation for the reason for this concentration of information is that good performing, happy employees don’t need to be managed.

Very little information is available for employees to gain insight into their right (or capacity) to manage their employer – in good or bad times.

In fact, many an employer has said that managing staff is like ‘managing kids in a kindergarten’ – difficult, chaotic and with little regard to rules and procedure.  Perhaps this attitude is where a lot of employers go wrong.

Many times we have heard both the employer and employee complain and lament that they have “no rights” when it comes to the other, and so “what’s the point of doing anything?

It is our view at Anderson Gray Lawyers that employees should be given information to help them manage their employer, as in doing so, we believe that it will lead to improved job satisfaction, productivity increases and a fairer and more robust working relationship.  The premise being that a healthy working relationship, where both parties are polite and courteous in debating the matters affecting them, is best for everyone involved.

First and foremost, a worker should however focus on doing their very best at work and at the same time have an expectation of being treated fairly.

Putting the job at hand to one-side, managing an employer may be broken into three parts.

  • Firstly, accurately knowing your rights is essential.
  • Secondly, choosing the right communication medium and communication path is a strategic consideration, and requires careful thought having regard to the context of the employee’s situation.
  • Thirdly, because an employee’s ongoing employment is very rarely guaranteed, one eye should be kept on the potential claims available to an employee either during or post-employment (should the employer make the decision to dismiss the worker), and steps should be taken during the employment to solidify those claims.

So what is ‘employer’ management?

Employer management is being proactive in achieving a courteous and fair outcome for the employee during periods of both high performance and non-performance.  Put another way, ‘employer management’ is essentially an employee adopting a proactive approach to ensuring that they are treated properly and fairly in the workplace.

At Anderson Gray, we believe that being proactive in managing your relationship with your employer (or manager) is a skill that all employees should learn and develop.

What are the key steps to managing my employer?

As stated above, knowing your rights is a key element to managing your employer.  Making a demand on your employer that is wrong in either fact or law can be fatal to the employment relationship.  For example, knowing which award applies to your work and identifying your minimum rate of pay, is essential to raising a concern about an alleged underpayment of wages.

There are many sources of information about employee entitlements.  For example:

  • Government supplied services such as the Fair Work Ombudsman produce a large volume of information about employee entitlements;
  • Trade unions;
  • The internet – although care needs to be taken with the information available on the internet;
  • Professional services such as lawyers and industrial advocates.

At Anderson Gray, we publish information on our website and Facebook through blogs, articles and information sheets, which are all designed to give the factual, accurate information about employee rights.

When is it appropriate to manage my employer?

In my view, each engagement with the employer (or a more senior management figure) presents a unique opportunity to manage your employer.  Each such engagement presents an employee with an opportunity to display value and build rapport.  Each engagement enables an employee to show respect and to be respected for the job they are doing. It also creates a moment whereby an employee can question and/or clarify any concerns they have about their work or the workplace generally.

Of course, employees need to be mindful of the timing, location and forum in which to raise questions or seek clarification about work related matters.  Raising a personal conflict with a manager in a weekly team meeting (for example), is not good timing, nor a good forum in which to raise such an issue.  And the same rule applies to employers and managers.

As an employee, you have the right to be treated fairly in the workplace.  If an employee (acting reasonably) believes that there are instances where they are not being treated fairly, then raising the unfair treatment with the employer in a timely, polite and respectful manner is appropriate.

It is also recommended practice for an employee to record details of ‘management type’ conversations.  Our view at Anderson Gray is that employees should be proactive in creating records about work related matters.  It is often the case that employees wait for confirmation from their employer as to the outcome or management of a particular matter.  But why wait?  In our view, it is appropriate for the employee (for example) to send a brief e-mail summarising a conversation or outcome to their manager or employer, ensuring that the employees version of events is recorded.

And here’s a nod to the last point – keeping an eye on potential claims.  We are often confronted with the situation where the employee is required to try and remember facts and circumstances without the assistance of records or notes.  Either that, or the only information available is the information recorded by the relevant manager or employer.  This immediately makes the task of pursuing a genuine claim more difficult, because the ‘written’ evidence is not favourable and is not an accurate account of the events.

In very brief summary, managing your employer can take various forms and can be as sophisticated as you would like it to be.  Here are some tips for the employee:

  • As an employee, you have the right to be treated fairly in the workplace. If an employee (acting reasonably) believes that there are instances where they are not being treated fairly, then raising the unfair treatment with the employer in a timely, polite and respectful manner is appropriate.
  • Making accurate, contemporaneous notes (with sufficient detail).
  • Know your rights as an employee and bring your employer’s attention to those matters when there has been a contravention of those rights.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article.

The Anderson Gray Brisbane Team.

Don’t Suffer in Silence! You CAN Ask Questions about your Entitlements

By | Unfair Dismissal, Workplace Rights and Entitlements

Enquiring of your Entitlements

The Fair Work Act provides that an employee is entitled to make a complaint or enquiry about their employment. It also provides that an employee should not be treated adversely because they made a complaint or enquiry about their employment.

A recent decision handed down by the Federal Circuit Court has identified that the court is willing to impose hefty penalties on employers (and individual directors) for treating an employee adversely after the employee made a complaint about his wages. In the case of Fair Work Ombudsman -v- Windaroo Medical Surgery Pty Ltd & Ors [2016] FCCA2505 (28 September 2016), Judge Jarrett penalised the Surgery and two of its directors because:

1. they threatened to stop paying a Doctor who had complained to the FWO about not being paid;

2. they did stop paying him until the Doctor resigned a few months later.

The Surgery and its Directors were collectively penalised over $50,000 for their involvement in the poor treatment of their employed Doctor.

The message here is that, as an employee, you have the right to complain to your employer about your workplace entitlements. If you suffer a loss because of that complaint, then the employer will be taken to have breached certain provisions of the Fair Work Act and you are likely to be entitled to compensation.

If you think that this has happened to you, then please give us a call.

AGL Team

Lawyers for Employees – specialising in unfair dismissal claims


 

Facing Change in your Workplace

By | Unfair Dismissal

Proactively Dealing with Change

You must welcome change as the rule, but not as your ruler” (Denis Waitley)

Change is constant and at many times during our working lives, we will need to change the way we do, think and act.  There’s nothing wrong with that – and we should accept it and move on.

What happens though if the change is significant?  That is, what if the change involves not only a change of duties, but perhaps a change of role, remuneration or hours of work?

In every Award across Australia, there are provisions relating to how ‘significant’ change ought to be managed.  Our Awards say that the cornerstone of introducing change in the workplace is consultation.

And this makes sense.  Sitting down with someone, explaining what the issues are and why the change is important would, in most cases, go a long way to removing the anxiety associated with change.

But is that enough?  Asking for input from employees makes sense also.  An employee is at the ‘coal face’.  Employees know what needs to be done, how to do it and might have a solution that is better than the one being introduced by the employer.

The law is no exception and a recent article I read highlighted the potential effects of change.  The article stated that recently in the US, a law firm introduced a robot to undertake certain work and that robot replaced 50 employees in one part of its business.

Whatever happens, the law imposes an obligation on an employer to ‘consult’ with employees if they want to introduce changes related to matters such as:

  • the composition, operation or size of the employer’s workforce or in the skills required;
  • the elimination or diminution of job opportunities, promotion opportunities or job tenure;
  • the alteration of hours of work;
  • the need for retraining or transfer of employees to other work or locations;
  • and the restructuring of jobs.

Managing change is going to become an even more important skill that both employers and employees will increasingly need to understand and manage.

If you are facing an issue at work, get in touch with our Melbourne unfair dismissal lawyers.

Helping Employees….it’s what we’re about!

By | Unfair Dismissal, Workplace Rights and Entitlements

Getting Help for Unfair Dismissal

Being told you don’t have a job, regardless of your status in the world, is always a difficult moment.  I know this, because in a legal career expanding some 16 years, I’ve seen the hurt and damage associated with the dismissal of many persons.

The initial reaction is largely the same – bitter disappointment and anger.  Sometimes, the employee is at fault and shouldn’t have done what they did.  Similarly, there are unscrupulous employers who simply do the wrong thing.

The law is designed to protect the individual from the unscrupulous employer.

Helping an employee out in times of trouble is our business.

And here’s where we want to helpout.

Helping an employee out in times of trouble is our business.  Whether that is by way of making a demand on your employer, commencing proceedings or simply pointing you in the right direction – for us, it’s all about helping out.

You should expect from every advisor that they go about their business in a cost-effective, efficient and diligent manner. At Anderson Gray Lawyers, it’s what we strive to do every day.

And, we know our business doesn’t stop with you.  We want to be the law firm that you are happy to refer to your network of friends, if ever any of them find themselves in trouble at work. You can contact our Sydney branch, or search for us in a city near you.