Employees are not required to specify the grounds for their claim or the remedies which they seek when they file an unfair dismissal claim with the Fair Work Commission by telephone, the Commission has ruled in a recent decision.
The Fair Work Act 2009 requires an unfair dismissal application to be lodged within 21 days of the dismissal taking effect, unless the Commission grants an extension.
The Fair Work Commission Rules 2013, at Rule 9, provides that an unfair dismissal application may be made by telephone, after which the Commission prepares a written application form for the applicant. The applicant then has a further 14 days to complete, sign and file the application form with the Commission.
In the case before the Commission, the employee was dismissed on 25 September 2014. The employee’s representative made a telephone application for an unfair dismissal remedy on 15 October 2014, and then filed a completed application form on 21 October 2014.
The employer argued that the application was not valid and was out of time because the remedy sought by the employee, and the reasons why he said his dismissal was unfair, were not specified at the time the telephone application was made on 15 October 2014.
Deputy President Gooley of the Commission disagreed, noting that the Fair Work Commission Rules do not require an applicant to provide any particular information when making an application by telephone, but do require this information to be provided when the written application form is filed.
The Deputy President also rejected an argument by the employer that the ability to make an incomplete telephone application enables employees to avoid the 21 day time limit and effectively obtain an extension of time to lodge without applying to the Commission, noting that applicants are still required under the Rules to commence the proceeding within the 21 day time limit, and that the Rules do no more than permit this to be done in a quick, flexible and informal manner.