COVID-19 drives "surge" in unfair dismissal claims

Covid-19 has driven a "surge" in unfair dismissal claims.

Unfair dismissal claims increased 60% in April 2020 in comparison with April 2019. According to the Fair Work Commission's president Justice Iain Ross, speaking at a webinar convened by the Australian Labour Law Association's Queensland chapter yesterday.

Justice Ross said the Commission is coping reasonably well, but the biggest challenge is likely to arise when the surge in claims gets to the hearing stage.

The Commission is taking steps to address the rise in unfair dismissal claims. Including establishing a working group to formulate a plan to address the recent "surge" in claims and avoid the backlog that would otherwise have developed.

The Commission has also reallocated resources to support case management and conciliation of dismissal claims.

Justice Ross said voluntary settlements of matters had declined, reflecting the difficult circumstances parties face.

Stand down disputes have also increased by 500% compared to the same period last year (50 vs 10).

The Fair Work Commission has asked the Federal Government for extra resources to deal with the coronavirus-driven "surge". As it expects the pandemic will bring about a permanent change in the organisation's operations, with many members and staff to continue working from home.

Justice Ross also said about 60% of JobKeeper disputes filed in the Commission have been withdrawn, largely because they relate to matters outside the new jurisdiction. 

Some 33% of JobKeeper dispute cases are continuing and 7% have been resolved.

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