'Unprecedented': Unfair work dismissal claims up 70 per cent because of coronavirus

The Fair Work Commission has revealed a 70 per cent spike in unfair dismissal claims because of the coronavirus job crisis.

People are seen queuing outside a yet to open Centrelink office.

Australia's unemployment rate is set to nearly double because of COVID-19 pandemic. Source: AAP

Unfair dismissal claims have soared to record levels as Australians lose jobs en masse because of the coronavirus crisis.

Fair Work Commission general manager Bernadette O'Neill told a Senate committee on Thursday claims were up 70 per cent.

"The increase in unfair dismissal has been unprecedented, so significantly higher than any other period from our records," she said.

Fair Work Australia general manager Bernadette O'Neill listens at the Senate estimates Workplace Relations legislation committee hearing at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012. (AAP Image/Alan Porritt) NO ARCHIVING
Fair Work Australia general manager Bernadette O'Neill., Source: AAP

She said unfair dismissal claims had been constant over a number of years, meaning the spike could be attributed to unemployment stemming from coronavirus restrictions.

Government industrial relations official Martin Hehir said the crisis had sparked high rates of job losses.

"It's not surprising that we're seeing escalation in things such as unfair dismissal," he said.

The unemployment rate recorded its biggest one-month jump on record, rising to 6.2 per cent from 5.2 in March.

Ms O'Neill said the surge in unfair dismissal claims had prompted the commission to ask the government for increased resources.

People are seen waiting in line at the Prahran Centrelink office in Melbourne.
People are seen waiting in line at the Prahran Centrelink office in Melbourne. Source: AAP

Meanwhile, the federal government has lowered the minimum notice period for worker votes on changes to enterprise agreements from seven days to one.

Since the change, there have been 30 applications for changes to pay and conditions with 14 giving less than seven days' notice.

Three have used the minimum one day notice for a vote.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

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2 min read
Published 21 May 2020 at 3:55pm