Skip to main content

The year 2020 has left the whole world restless for the past few months, it’s already halfway through the year, and new issues continue to rise. Australia alone has gone through the most devastating fire season that raged on from September 2019 to March 2020. Not even too long after the bushfires were completely extinguished, COVID-19 was classified as a pandemic by WHO. And now, police brutality, racism, and protests are the highlights of the month. If anything is for sure, it’s the fact that understanding your rights in these trying times is important and if you’re unsure, seeking help from reliable Sydney lawyers helps.

Aside from worrying about the lockdown restrictions, their rights and the pandemic itself, Australian citizens are also concerned about losing their jobs due to unfair reasons. The Fair Work Commission has seen a huge increase in unfair dismissal claims during the coronavirus pandemic. Read on to find out why this is happening and what you can do.

FWC Updates Regarding the Coronavirus Pandemic and Unfair Dismissals

The claims for unfair dismissals increased by 60% compared to this time last year, which led the FWC to seek additional resources. This unprecedented surge in unfair dismissal is attributed to the effects of the coronavirus crisis. Due to the pandemic lockdown restrictions and also the fear that COVID-19 has instilled in each citizen, a lot of businesses are not doing well or needed to let go of their workforce.

The nation is continuously grappling with the economic impact of the pandemic.

The JobKeeper Scheme

The government is not sitting idly by as businesses and their employees suffer the economic effects of the pandemic. The JobKeeper Payment scheme was released by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to support businesses and their employees during the coronavirus pandemic. The purpose of this scheme is to enable eligible employers to pay the wages of their eligible employees amounting to at least AUD 1,500 per fortnight.

Employers must take care of their monthly business declaration by the 14th day of each month (starting this June) so they can receive reimbursements for payments made in the previous month.

But, is the JobKeeper scheme to blame for the high number of disputes? No, the number of disputes involving the JobKeeper scheme has decreased since the release of the recent clarifications.

Sydney Lawyers on the Increase of Unfair Dismissal Claims

Unfair dismissal is when an employee is terminated from their position because of harsh, unjust or unreasonable grounds.

So, what is going on? Why is there an increase in unfair dismissal claims during the coronavirus pandemic?

Higher Numbers of Unemployment

If a company has a high number of terminations, naturally, there will be quite a lot of unfair dismissal claims as well. Considering the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, some businesses have to let go most of their workforce so their business can thrive. Due to lockdown restrictions and the people’s fear of getting the virus, not a lot of business is doing well. If there aren’t enough customers or clients to use a company’s products and services, then it is difficult for businesses to afford to pay their employees.

According to ABS reports, between 14 March and 18 April– the total employee jobs decreased by 7.5%, while total wages paid by employers decreased by 8.2%. The food and accommodation industry has taken the hardest hit in this situation. 

Anxious Employees 

Everyone’s a little on the edge since the coronavirus pandemic started affecting life as everyone knew it. Some businesses genuinely need to let go of people because business isn’t going well during these trying times. Even their employees can’t blame them for that. However, employees have bills to pay and family members to support, so people can’t blame them for being anxious as well. 

In a normal setting, people move on and find another job when they get terminated. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, there isn’t any job to move on to, of course, people will try and hold on to their current job.

Since people are aware that they will not be able to readily find a new job, they look for other options to get the money for their needs. Some of the unfair dismissal claims may be from people who are trying to get some money to help them through the month. 

If a claimant tries to decline voluntary settlements, it can mean that they are going to attempt to get a bigger settlement by filing an unfair dismissal claim. Some will try and claim the amount they need instead of the amount the claim is objectively worth. 

Dubious Companies or Employers

Not all employees are trying to take advantage of the unfair dismissal claims. Some claims are legitimate and they are truly the victims of the story. In this case, they should get in touch with Sydney lawyers specialising workplace laws and cases. 

Some employers see the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to let go of some long-standing employees who may not be performing as well as they are hoping. The COVID-19 situation gives them an excuse to terminate employees without going through proper procedures.

Of course, this line of reasoning will also cross the mind of the affected employee. Although there may be an acceptable reason on the employer’s end, like poor performance or maybe an issue with attitude, employees may misunderstand and file an unfair dismissal claim.

What Can Companies Do to Avoid Unfair Dismissal Claims?

There are two things that a company can do to avoid unfair dismissal claims from their dismissed employees:

Companies should still do the usual procedures.

The coronavirus pandemic or even the lockdown does not change anything when it comes to the procedures of dismissal. The company should keep adequate records and take all the necessary steps before terminating an employee. 

Procedural fairness should be applied if an employee needs to be terminated due to performance or conduct-related issues. As for terminations based on redundancy, there should indeed be a case of redundancy. 

The company should be transparent.

Uncertainty is an unsettling feeling and not being transparent about the reason for letting them go can make them feel that they are being treated unfairly. The company should also be honest about its current situation. If they try to cover that they are hardly thriving during this pandemic even with their employees, it will seem like they are letting go of people due to unfair reasons when they do need to make cuts.


The past few months have been hard on people and it is also hard for the economy. Employers have their reasons for cutting down their workforce and employees have their reasons for wanting to stay or file for an unfair dismissal claim. Although there will be cases where people will take advantage of the claims, there are employees who are real victims of unfair dismissal. If your rights are being stepped on, you should seek legal help from expert Sydney lawyers to help you understand your options.