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Unfair dismissal claims rocketed as COVID entered Australia

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
16 October 2020 1 minute readShare

A total 518 out of 544 JobKeeper dispute applications have been finalised by the Fair Work Commission, its annual report for 2019–20 has revealed, also disclosing a surge in unfair dismissal applications in the period from March to June.

While the FWC did receive 544 JobKeeper dispute applications in 2019–20, the majority of applications lodged, or 386, were actually withdrawn either because they did not concern a dispute about the operation of Part 6‑4C or because parties reached an agreement.

The new Part 6-4C of the Fair Work Act was introduced in April to allow employers accessing the JobKeeper scheme to make various changes to their employment arrangements.

According to its report, of the applications FWC received about the operation of Part 6‑4C, the most common related to stand-downs, days and times of work and taking paid annual leave.

COVID impact 

Overall, the FWC experienced a net increase of 8 per cent in applications in 2019–20. This was largely owed to a dramatic shift in the last quarter, between March and June 2020, in which applications increased by almost 20 per cent overall, with unfair dismissals rocketing by 40 per cent.

As is usually the case, unfair dismissal claims made up almost half of all applications made to the commissioner for intervention, accounting for 49 per cent of the total or 16,558 applications.

However, this year, the spike in unfair dismissal applications occurred at the onset of COVID and stretched to June, with claims increasing by 43 per cent in this period compared with the time last year.

The full breakdown in applications lodged with the commission was:

  • Unfair dismissal – 16,558
  • General protections specifically involving dismissal – 4,823
  • Agreement approvals – 3,795
  • Dispute resolution – 2,255
  • Right of entry – 1,128
  • Other types of general protections – 1,050
  • Other types of agreements – 931
  • Industrial action – 922
  • Stop bullying orders – 820
  • JobKeeper – 544
  • Bargaining – 310
  • Appeals – 221
  • Registered organisations – 192
  • Other matters – 440


In regard to the government’s most popular stimulus measure, the FWC revealed that its website received 17,488 page views about JobKeeper disputes, while its JobKeeper Disputes Benchbook had 2,109 page views or downloads. 

The commission also insisted it is dealing with JobKeeper disputes as quickly as possible, revealing that 84 per cent of cases are finalised within four days of lodgement, with 97 per cent completed within 14 days. 

As for the subject matter of the JobKeeper applications, the FWC revealed the following data: 

  • Wage condition or minimum payment guarantee – 44
  • JobKeeper enabling stand down 72
  • Duties of work 20
  • Location of work 12
  • Days, times of work etc. 68
  • Taking paid annual leave 61
  • Secondary employment, training for professional development 7
  • Matters that appear to be outside 363
Unfair dismissal claims rocketed as COVID entered Australia
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Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of My Business. 

Maja has a decade-long career in journalism across finance, business and politics. Now a well-versed reporter in the SME and accounting arena, prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja reported for several established news outlets in Southeast Europe, scrutinising key processes in post-conflict societies and enabling citizens to influence decision-making.

You can email Maja on [email protected] 

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