Figures contained in the new annual report from Fair Work Australia back up claims that all too often employers are left with no choice but to pay ‘go-away’ money to sacked workers, rather than endure the expense of arbitration, even if they believe the dismissal was justified.
In federal parliament yesterday the following figures were put to the house:
14,027 unfair dismissal claims were lodged in the 2011/2012 financial year
This was an increase of 9.2% on claims lodged in 2010/2011
9,064 of the claims were settled through conciliation, and 6,604 cases resulted in a monetary payment being made to the sacked worker.
It is precisely the sheer number of ‘monetary payments’ that is causing employers and HR directors to see red. “There's no doubt that 'go away money' has returned and businesses are settling unfair dismissal claims even though they strongly believe a dismissal was for a valid reason,” Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Peter Anderson told The Australian.
To Anderson, the figures are proof that the system of unfair dismissal claims is being manipulated by "no-win, no-fee" lawyers pursuing speculative claims.
The release of the figures follows yesterday’s announcement by Workplace Relations Minister Bill Shorten that a new 21-day time limit for lodging unfair dismissal claims will be imposed.
Related story: Shorten announces unfair dismissal shakeup
Shorten said the proportion of unfair dismissal claims being made under Labor compared with the previous government was similar given the broader access allowed under the current system, adding the Gillard government had a ‘better conciliation rate’ than what was seen under Howard.
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