“Unfair dismissal claims has become a growth industry of sorts,” said Employsure managing director Ed Mallett.
Mr Mallett was responding to data from the Fair Work Commission (FWC), which this week released its annual report for the 2017 financial year.
FWC revealed it received 33,071 applications during the year, close to half of which (14,135) were for unfair dismissal – equating to almost 39 applications every day of the year.
This was down only marginally from previous years, with unfair dismissal claims sitting between 14,624 and 14,795 for the previous three consecutive financial years.
In 2017, general protections involving dismissal accounted for a further 3,729 applications, while FWC also received 2,106 requests for dispute resolution, 797 relating to industrial action and 722 orders to stop workplace bullying.
However, Mr Mallett singled out unfair dismissal claims as the most pertinent dispute for employers, not just because of the volume of claims made, but also by the proportion of businesses losing these cases.
He suggested that around 60 per cent of unfair dismissal claims were being awarded against employers.
“With options available to employees like unions, and advocacy groups, and particularly with the rise of no-win-no-fee lawyers, it’s no surprise the employer success rate in unfair dismissal cases are dipping. Lodging an unfair dismissal case is easier than lodging a tax return,” he said.
According to FWC, the majority of claims (61 per cent) were settled at conciliation, while 17 per cent were settled even before reaching conciliation and a further 15 per cent immediately after.
Just 1,028 cases – or 7 per cent – of those finalised through involvement of FWC actually required it to hand down a verdict.
The number of complaints, and their failure to show any meaningful decline in recent years, highlighted the complexity of industrial relations matters for employers, particularly SMEs.
“We hear from employers all the time that it is hard to understand what is actually required. The complexities of the Fair Work Act can leave employers exposed,” said Mr Mallett.