Can I Be Fired Because Of Coronavirus?
We are getting lots of questions about how coronavirus is affecting your job including:
- Can I request to work from home?
- Do I have to accept a pay cut?
- Can I be stood down without pay?
- Do I have an unfair dismissal case because of COVID-19?
- Can I be fired because of Coronavirus?
This blog focuses on the last question and the answer is yes, if your job is no longer required to be performed by anyone, it is redundant. BUT a temporary slow down or lock down may not result in your job being redundant. That’s why it is so important that employers comply with the duty to consult with you about major changes BEFORE they take effect.
If you are award/agreement covered, your employer is required to consult with you about changes to your hours of work, your rate of pay and redundancies. This obligation is serious and if breached, the Federal Court or the Federal Circuit Court can make orders to remedy the breach including fining the employer up to $64,000 and awarding compensation for loss of wages.
Fair Work Commission
An employee can bring a dispute about a failure to consult before the Fair Work Commission while they are employed or, if you have been made redundant and were not consulted, you can commence an unfair dismissal claim. You only have 21 days from the date the dismissal was effective to commence an unfair dismissal so be quick. We can help or you can use our DIY unfair dismissal.
So what is the duty to consult? Well in an order issued yesterday by the Fair Work Commission, the Commission said the following:
- Consultation cannot be conducted for mere show;
- If consultation does not provide the employee with an opportunity to influence the decision, it is of no value and the requirement to consult is hollow;
- It is not a right of veto but the employer must have taken into account the views of the employee;
- It is more than the mere exchange of information;
- There is a requirement to provide a genuine opportunity to the employee to express a view and persuade the employer to take a different course of action.
The order concerned Auscript’s decision to make its employees redundant because of coronavirus. The Commissioner said this:
“While Auscript has determined that its future is unviable, there nevertheless remains an obligation to treat staff with dignity in this time of crisis. In this respect I am of the view that the focus should be on putting in place processes to remedy the impact on employees, while limiting the impact on Auscript as much as reasonably practicable.”
If you have been made redundant by Auscript you probably have an unfair dismissal claim so please contact us.
If you have been made redundant or forced to resign because of coronavirus and your employer did not consult with you before making the decision, you probably have an unfair dismissal claim so please contact us.
BUT if you have not been fired, you still have a chance to change your employer’s mind. First, do a check of your employment entitlements here. Then use this information about alternatives to redundancy in conversation with your employer. If your employer does not consider your views and proceeds to fire you, please get in touch.