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Can a Contractor Make An Unfair Dismissal Claim?

The short answer is “Yes” if the employer doesn’t follow the letter of the contract and/or has a poorly worded contract.


Here’s what happened in Newton v Lendlease Engineering Pty Ltd (2018).


Employment Contracts Must Be Specific

An employee was engaged under an employment contract that described his position as a labourer on a Pacific Highway road development project that was “limited to this project only”. The contract stated employment would end “when work on the project concludes”.


In the past, the Fair Work Commission has ruled that a “task” must be specific to ensure completion of the task is easy to identify. So when Lendlease terminated the contract on the basis of “successful completion of your engagement”, the worker took them to the Fair Work Commission for unfair dismissal.


In this case, the Fair Work Commission ruled that Lendlease had failed to specify the task required to be performed or when it would be completed. As a result, the company couldn’t terminate the employee’s contract simply because they did not need as many workers on that particular project.


The Commission found the dismissal was unreasonable and ordered Lendlease to pay compensation to the employee.


Employment Contracts Need Careful Wording

This case demonstrates that even the big guys can make mistakes with the content of their employment contracts.


You may have been using the same employment contract for years but it could come undone with one claim to the Fair Work Commission. If you haven’t reviewed your employment contracts for a while, or worse, haven’t had your employment contracts professional written, contact the team at End2End Business Solutions for help. Be proactive. Call 02 8977 4002.