'Non on-going' worker claims she was promised permanent role

Was the worker fired when the employer failed to offer a 'secure' position?

'Non on-going' worker claims she was promised permanent role

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) recently dealt with a worker’s claim that she was unjustly dismissed when her task-specific employment ended after her employer “verbally offered” her a permanent role.

The worker, Narelle Wilson, submitted a general protections application to the FWC on 5 December 2023, alleging adverse action by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).

On the other hand, the employer raised a jurisdictional objection, disputing the worker's claim of dismissal.

Background of the case

The worker's employment with the employer began on 11 September 2023 as an APS 6.2 employee under the Public Service Act 1999 (Cth) on a 'non-ongoing' basis.

After her dismissal, the worker said that her employment was terminated prematurely, citing tasks beyond the initial role description, including complaints about workplace bullying and harassment, salary issues, and failure to secure a permanent position.

Meanwhile, the employer argued that the worker's employment ended upon the completion of the specified task outlined in her contract, which involved planning and preparation for a potential referendum.

The employer added that the worker was employed for a specific task and was not dismissed.

Worker's task-specific contract

According to the decision, the worker's contract specified her employment for the planning and preparation of a potential referendum, with employment ceasing upon the contract expiry date or upon completion of the specified task.

The employer's objection to the worker's application hinged on their argument that the worker was not dismissed, but rather her employment concluded upon the completion of her assigned task.

However, the worker contended that she was hired for three specific tasks, two of which were ongoing even after the completion of the initial task. Additionally, the worker asserted that the employer verbally offered her a permanent role to fill a vacant position within the company, which the employer denied.

Was the worker dismissed?

The FWC found that the worker “was employed for a specified task which was clearly defined.” It noted the worker’s contract, which stated: “You acknowledge that you are being employed for a specified task, specifically, the planning and preparation for a potential referendum.”

“The specified task was directly linked to the AEC project being the delivery of the 2023 Referendum. Further, there was never any promise made that work would be ongoing for any indefinite period,” it added.

“The specified task that the [worker] was employed to perform was sufficiently definite in its nature and delineation such that the AEC was able to identify when the task was completed by [her] in a clear and predictable manner, without doubt, speculation or contingency,” the FWC said.

“This is evident in the process undertaken by the AEC once the 2023 Referendum writ was returned when it identified the specific cessation date for each surge employee based on whether each employee had completed the task for which they had been employed,” it added.

Thus, the FWC said that the worker’s employment came to an end upon completion of the specified task for which she was engaged. “As a result, she was not dismissed,” it said.

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