Latest News In Workplace Law
Demotion amounts to dismissal: FWC
The Fair Work Commission has held that a supervisor’s demotion to a job “on the tools” with a 9% pay cut was in fact a dismissal, rejecting employer submissions that it was allowed under his contract or via a “notorious” unwritten term. An engineering company downgraded the service supervisor to a mechanical service technician role due to allegations that he, and two of his team members, consumed 29 beverages the night before work. The commissioner said that the demotion involved a significant reduction in duties, and therefore constituted a dismissal within the meaning of section 386 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).
Scott Harrison v FLSmidth Pty Limited T/A FLSmidth Pty Limited  FWC 6695
Host employer restrained from excluding labour hire worker from job
The Federal Court has restrained mining giant BHP Coal from “excluding or otherwise preventing” a reinstated labour hire mineworker returning to the job at its Bowen Basin coal mine. Workpac was found to have unfairly dismissed the employee without providing a reason. The judge accepted that Star had established a serious issue to be tried and that BHP Coal had taken adverse action against her. The general protections case will now go to final hearing. This is a significant decision for labour hire employers and businesses who use labour hire services.
Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union v BM Alliance Coal Operations Pty Ltd  FCA 1590
FWO gets tough on false and misleading paperwork
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has begun the first proceedings using strict new provisions relating to providing false and misleading documents during an investigation. The Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act2017 (Cth) strengthened the Ombudsman’s investigatory powers and access to higher penalties for serious contraventions.
Exploited visa workers need their own FWO: Report
Authors of a report found that less than 2 percent of more than 2,000 migrant workers surveyed successfully recouped all their unpaid wages through existing channels. The report (produced by senior law lecturers and Migrant Worker Justice Initiative co-directors) revealed that the reasons included anything from unfamiliarity with processes to fear of losing their jobs. The report recommends that the Fair Work Ombudsman establish a dedicated unit to service migrant workers as well as the introduction of a “firewall” so that potential visa breaches are not shared with the Department of Home Affairs.