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Tips for avoiding unfair dismissal claims

An unfair dismissal claim is a costly and time-consuming issue that many employers face each year. Under the Unfair Work Act, unfair dismissal actions are available to employees working for a business with more than 15 employees (whereas, the fair dismissal code applies for small businesses with under 15 employees). Employees who are dismissed in an unjust manner may receive up to six month’s pay. Below are five steps employers may want to consider to minimise the possibility of unfair dismissal claims.

1. Probation period
Provide the under-performing employee with some constructive criticism and a chance to improve their work ethic. This gives them time to assess what they have done wrong and correct their performance. Employers should ensure they arrange a meeting with the employee to discuss the problem and find possible solutions.

2. Give the employee a chance to respond
The employee must be clearly aware of any allegations made against them and given the opportunity to respond. Employers can spell out allegations in writing and then arrange a later date to discuss the employee’s poor performance, which gives them time to consider their response.

3. Clearly communicate business policies and procedures
Ensure all policies and procedures are known to all staff, including termination of employment provisions. Regularly referring to these policies will help to prevent any behaviour that could constitute as a serious breach to an employment contract.

4. Do not abuse the process
Dismissing an employee for personality reasons can have negative repercussions for a business. Some employees abuse the complaints system just to get rid of people who are not liked, so it is important for employers to be aware of this issue and the correct way to dismiss an employee.

5. Avoid on the spot dismissals
If an employee commits a gross breach of their employment contract, implement a procedure where another manager becomes involved. The event should be recorded and a decision reached after all parties have had a chance to respond.

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