Australia: Labour hire and unfair dismissals – Is a dismissal unfair if the host employer excludes the employee?

Last Updated: 14 September 2016
Article by Clayton Payne

A host employer decides to exclude an employee of a labour hire company from their worksite. The employer then terminates the employment of the employee.

Can the employee successfully bring an unfair dismissal claim against their employer, the labour hire company?

This matter was considered by a recent Full Bench of the Fair Work Commissionin Pettifer.

The Facts

The worker was employed by a labour hire company and had been placed with the host employer to provide labour on a floating production, storage and offloading vessel.

The worker was involved in a "near miss" incident with the host employer who consequently directed the employer to remove the worker from the relevant site. Although the employer did this, it did not believe that the worker's conduct justified disciplinary action being taken against him.

As such, the employer tried to find an alternative placement for the worker to no avail. Ultimately the employer terminated the worker's employment.

The Original Decision

The worker brought a statutory unfair dismissal claim in the Fair Work Commission (Commission). The Commissioner hearing the matter at first instance found that as the dismissal did not relate to issues of the worker's capacity or conduct, the question of whether the reason given to the worker for the dismissal was valid (for the purposes of determining if the dismissal was "unfair"), did not arise.

The Commissioner ultimately found in favour of the employer.

It was in part on this latter point, relating to the matter of "valid reason", that the worker appealed the decision.

The Appeal

A Full Bench of the Commission, granted leave for the appeal to be heard. This was primarily because the Full Bench considered that the appeal raised broader questions associated with the obligations of labour hire employers.

While the Full Bench found that the Commissioner at first instance was wrong in finding that the worker's "capacity" in particular was not a factor leading to the termination of their employment, it ultimately dismissed the appeal. It found that the dismissal occurred because the worker did not have capacity to perform the duties which he was engaged to perform (i.e. because the host employer would not have him back on its worksite) and he could not be redeployed elsewhere by the employer.

The Full Bench went on to find:

"(The employer) was ... contractually obliged to remove (the worker) from (the host employer's worksite) if instructed to do so. This was the role which (the worker) was employed to perform. No longer capable of performing the inherent functions of this role, (the employer) sought to find alternative employment for (the worker). Only after exhausting these inquiries did (the employer) rely on this reason to terminate (the worker's) employment. In these circumstances, the Full Bench is satisfied that (the employer) had a valid reason relating to (the worker's) capacity to terminate his employment and only exercised this reason because it genuinely was unable to find suitable alternative employment for him".

It was noted by the Full Bench, distinguishing another decision of the Commission, that it had evidence of the terms of the contractual relationship between the employer and host employer. That said, the Full Bench found that even in circumstances where a host employer can exercise a contractual right to remove a labour hire employee from its site, and the employee is later dismissed because of that by their employer, the Commission still has the discretion to decide that a particular dismissal was unfair in all the circumstances.

Conclusion

The Commission will look at all of the circumstances of a case, as are relevant, to determine whether a dismissal is unfair. However, labour hire employers, which have a valid reason to terminate a worker's employment because a host employer exercises its contractual rights, may be in a position to successfully defend an unfair dismissal claim.

In this case, the Full Bench noted that the host employer had gone to some lengths to find the worker alternative employment – it was not simply a case that the employer washed its hands of the worker.

One would also think that the terms of the contract between the worker and the labour hire employer could also come into play. If, for example, the worker was engaged in a pool of employees working with numerous host employers in similar circumstances, and one host employer decided to exclude that worker from its worksite, the Full Bench's decision might have been different. One would expect that in the current matter, noting the findings relating to the "inherent functions" of the worker's role, the worker's position with the employer was very much focused on providing services to a particular host employer. When that host employer would not have the worker back, there was probably little more that could be done, apart from what the employer had tried to do.

As with any termination of employment initiated by an employer, a thorough consideration of the surrounding circumstances should be undertaken before a dismissal is affected.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.

Disclaimer

Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.

Registration

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.

Cookies

A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.

Links

This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.

Mail-A-Friend

If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.

Security

This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.