$4,000 settlement for contract non-renewal
A Queensland ELICOS college member has received a $4,000 settlement after our union lodged an unfair dismissal application.
The member had been employed as a long-term casual employee at the college when they were offered a new full-time, fixed term contract.
The member said “I thought this was recognition of my good work and my long term casual status, so I signed the contract. I worked at the full-time hourly rate (without the casual teacher loading), which reduced my earning capacity because I was not able to work additional teaching hours as required. I thought being on a full-time contract would give me greater job security than a casual worker. However, as I found out, becoming full-time actually made my employument less secure because a fixed-term contract could simply not be re-signed, as opposed to my ongoing, regular and systematic casual work.”
After the contracted period, our member was told that they were no longer required to work at the college due to an apparent ‘misalignment of values’.
The member tried to seek further information and clarification from the employer about why their contract was not renewed and was provided with a different reason: ‘operational needs.’
At this time, the member contacted our union for assistance.
A recent decision from the Fair Work Commission (Khayam v Navitas) indicated that the entire employment relationship needs to be considered when determining whether an employee was unfairly dismissed.
In Khayam v Navitas, the employee was engaged as a long-term casual, and then on rolling fixed term contracts. Initially the Commission determined that the employee had not been dismissed at the initiative of the employer but rather the contract had expired due to the ‘effluxion of time’ and the FWC dismissed the application.
However, on appeal the FWC Full Bench determined a non-renewal of a fixed-term contract may be considered a dismissal and therefore entitled the employee to bring an unfair dismissal claim. (The FWC is still to make a final determination in this case.)
In light of the Full Bench decision, our union lodged an unfair dismissal application with the FWC.
The employer made the same claim as the employer in Khayam v Navitas – that the contract had expired due to the ‘effluxion’ or the passing of time.
Our union argued there was a reasonable expectation of ongoing employment and that the entire employment relationship needed to be considered when determining whether our member, first, was dismissed, and, if so, whether it was fair or not.
After discussions within the FWC processes, the employer paid a $4,000 settlement to our member.
Members should consider new contracts carefully and seek advice from our union where they have concerns.
It is always prudent to seek advice from our union at the earliest opportunity, particularly in cases where members have potentially been unfairly dismissed.
Contact our union for support on 1800 177 938 or by email to email@example.com