Jul 20, 2006

Challenge ‘too pricey for sacked worker’

Challenge ‘too pricey for sacked worker’

20 July 2006


A woman sacked while on maternity leave says she has no choice but to accept the decision because it’s too expensive to mount a legal challenge under the federal government’s industrial reforms.

Elaine Gray was sacked from her job as marketing manager at Dialect Solutions, a payments technology company, five months into maternity leave.

She was not given any notice and was also denied termination pay.

The governments industrial reform legislation, Work Choices, allows employers to sack workers for operational reasons.

If a company employs less than 100 people, as is the case with Dialect Solutions, Work Choices removes unfair dismissal protection for employees who are made redundant.

Under the previous industrial relations (IR) regime, employees who felt they had been unfairly dismissed could challenge their termination in the Australian Industrial Relations Commission (AIRC).

Now, employees can only challenge terminations through an expensive unlawful dismissal action in the federal court.

Ms Gray said that five months after giving birth to her son, Paul, she received a call from Dialect Solutions informing her she no longer had a job at the company.

She said she spent as much as she could on legal advice and was informed that she had been treated unfairly on the grounds of unlawful termination.

However, in correspondence with her Dialect Solutions she was told they believed she had not been treated unfairly.

"The next step was to take it further, which, with a new house, mortgage, family to raise, that’s not a situation that we’re able to entertain," Ms Gray told reporters in Sydney.

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley said Ms Gray’s situation showed the danger the federal government’s Work Choices legislation posed to Australian workers.

"You can come back from maternity leave like Elaine Gray and be sacked and there is no recourse," Mr Beazley said.

"If you’re employed by a company that employs less than 100 … you’re just gone."