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Most unfair dismissal claims never get legs

Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti
05 February 2019 1 minute readShare
Fair Work Commission

Despite employer fears about unfair dismissal, a review of the Fair Work Commission’s case files shows that less than 1 per cent of all claims result in a formal judgement against the business.

In its quarterly report for October to December 2018, the commission revealed that just over 5 per cent of the 3,521 applications it received relating to unfair dismissal actually made it to the stage of having a ruling made, with most either withdrawn or settled well before that point.

Of the total applications received, 637 (18 per cent) were settled before any required conciliation took place, while the conciliation process settled the bulk of all claims (2,042 or around 58 per cent).

A further 535 (15 per cent) were settled post-conciliation but before reaching a ruling, and 11 more were withdrawn at this point.

That left only 192 that actually relied on the commission to hand down a judgement.

Employers also have odds on their side when it comes to actual rulings, the figures reveal.

Of the 192 in the quarter that required a judgement to be made, more than four out of five (157 or 81.8 per cent) were thrown out for various reasons.

Just 35 applications were granted in a ruling by the commission (0.99 per cent of the total made), 21 of which ordered compensation. Two required no remedy, another two ordered the worker to be reinstated while four ordered both reinstatement and backpay of lost earnings. The remaining six are yet to have a remedy determined.

Similar numbers were recorded in each quarter during calendar 2018. However the same period a year earlier (October to December 2017) saw even fewer case reach the final decision staged – just 68 of the 3,386 applications lodged. And of those 68, only 21 were granted – less than a third.

Unfair dismissal accounts for the largest proportion of all applications lodged with the Fair Work Commission, accounting for almost half of the 31,554 it received last financial year.

Anti-bullying claims

Employers fared better still when it came to applications for stop bullying orders in the workplace – not a single one of the 196 applications lodged in the quarter was ultimately upheld by the commission.

As with unfair dismissal, most applications never made their way to a full hearing. Of the 22 that did, all were dismissed for various reasons.

The report revealed that, over the December quarter, 69 (35 per cent) were withdrawn very early on in the process, while a further 15 were withdrawn prior to formal proceedings commencing and another 29 withdrawn before the commission was able to hand down its decision.

The remaining 42 cases were resolved between the parties during the course of proceedings.

A fully history of quarterly reports for both types of applications can be found on the Fair Work Commission’s website.

Most unfair dismissal claims never get legs
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Adam Zuchetti
Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the former editor of MyBusiness and a senior freelance media professional, specialising in the fields of business, personal finance and property. In 2020, he also embarked on his own business journey – inspired in part by the entrepreneurs and founders he had met through his journalistic work – with the launch of customised pet gifting and subscription service Paws N’ All.

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