Michelle Roberts

Michelle Roberts

Minister for Housing and Works; Indigenous Affairs; Heritage; Land Information

    250,000 Western Australian employees vulnerable to unfair dismissal

    19/09/2007 1:00 PM

    Changes to the unfair dismissal laws as a direct result of the Howard Government’s WorkChoices have left employees vulnerable to being sacked on the spot.

    Employment Protection Minister Michelle Roberts said 250,000 Western Australian employees, or more than one in four, have no recourse if they are unfairly dismissed.

    “The fact is, WorkChoices has given the employer the upper hand, and a business that is a constitutional corporation with less than 100 employees can sack staff without any explanation, and those employees can’t do a thing about it,” she said.

    “Most employers do want to do the right thing, but the reality is, people are still being unfairly dismissed.”

    In May this year, the Fair Employment Advocate was appointed to mediate in relation to unfair or inappropriate industrial relations practices.

    Since the appointment, Mrs Roberts said the Fair Employment Advocate had received many inquiries from employees who were the victims of unfair dismissal laws.

    The Minister said a cafe worker who contacted the office of the Fair Employment Advocate was sacked by text message for no reason, and a boilermaker was sacked after being nearly electrocuted at work because the employer was angry about having to get faulty equipment fixed.

    “With many employees now not having access to the protection of unfair dismissal laws because of WorkChoices, we need to restore fairness and balance back into the system,“ she said.

    “Businesses need to be aware of their obligations without being overburdened with regulations and bureaucracy.

    “Most employers would agree that we need a system that operates on the principle of natural justice and one which is fair and equitable to all parties.”

    A discussion paper prepared by the Fair Employment Advocate, Helen Creed, has highlighted the change in the unfair dismissal laws since the introduction of WorkChoices.

    “We want this discussion paper to stimulate debate about what core values Australians want from their workplace relations system,” Mrs Roberts said.

    “Unfair dismissal laws protect employees but there are also benefits for businesses. Adhering to fair termination practices can also be seen as essential for attracting and retaining employees in Western Australia’s tight labour market, characterised by low unemployment and a shortage of skilled workers in many industries.”

    The discussion paper will be distributed to employer groups, academics, unions and interested parties with a view to encouraging comment about the benefits and disadvantages of unfair dismissal regulation.

    Comments from the paper will be distributed to Federal Labor to be considered in developing future policy.

    To obtain a copy of the discussion paper go to http://www.fairemployment.wa.gov.au or contact 9222 7703.

    Minister's office - 9213 6600