Can a worker's mother question their pay and contract?

Mother represents minor-aged worker and battles unfair dismissal case

Can a worker's mother question their pay and contract?

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently dealt with an unfair dismissal case involving a worker dismissed from work after her mother made complaints about her daughter's work matters.

At the time of her dismissal, the worker was a minor undertaking an apprenticeship in hairdressing. Her mother stepped forward and raised concerns about her daughter's work condition.

‘Mother knows best’

At 16, the worker signed a registered apprenticeship/traineeship training contract with the employer to undertake a Hairdressing Certificate III qualification on a full-time basis.

Under the contract, the worker's mother was listed as the guardian/parent and was required to "uphold the responsibilities" for the worker until she was 18 years of age already.

Between September 2022 and January 2023, the mother sent multiple text messages to her daughter's employer regarding her daughter's pay and working conditions and stated, "While she is a minor, I need to ensure she is paid correctly according to the award."

The mother also wrote to the Training Services NSW (NSW Department of Education), which administers the apprenticeship/traineeship training contracts in NSW.

In the letter, the mother outlined her concerns about her daughter's work, including being assigned to apply keratin treatment containing formaldehyde as the worker's senior staff did not want to breathe in the chemical.

The worker's mother argued that her daughter suffered from sore throat, headaches, and lethargy on multiple occasions because of the number of keratin treatments she was assigned to do that day.

Moreover, she argued that her daughter was paid incorrectly as she received no payslips or superannuation payments.

The mother also detailed in the letter that during a meeting with the employer and METG, the former said, "he has had enough of me interfering in his business, he will run his business his way, and he will not be listening to my complaints anymore."

Consequently, during that meeting, the employer gave the worker two weeks to resign, which the mother refused as her daughter needed to complete her apprenticeship in the salon. However, on 8 February 2023, the worker was dismissed.

Despite such claims, the employer contended that the worker had poor performance, failed to follow instructions, and had inappropriate behaviors during her stay in the salon, which ultimately warranted her dismissal.

HRD previously reported about an employee’s husband, who reportedly resigned on her behalf. The court said the spouse talked to the employer on the phone and said his wife was “never coming back” to work.

FWC's decision

After examining the case, the Commission decided that the worker's dismissal from the salon was indeed harsh, unjust, and unreasonable.

It found that the employer dismissing the worker on the basis of her mother making complaints as to her ongoing terms and conditions of employment was "not sound, defensible, or well-founded."

"I have found that not only was there no valid reason for the Applicant's [worker] dismissal, but that the Applicant [worker] did not engage in any misconduct or poor performance in the lead up to her dismissal by the Respondent [employer]," the FWC stated. Hence, the Commission ordered an award of compensation to the worker.

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