A fair deal? Justice in dismissal in Australia

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Against the historical backdrop of some protection against unfair dismissal at State level, this article explores the chequered path to ‘a fair go all round’ in Federal unfair dismissal protection for employees in Australia, initially through awards (and the foundation laid by the federal industrial tribunal) in 1984 to legislative provisions enacted by the Federal Parliament in 1993. The vicissitudes of the Federal statutory unfair dismissal regime are scrutinised: first its virtual dismantling by a conservative government in 2005 and then its revival by a Labor government in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). The article analyses the nature of the unfair dismissal jurisdiction legislatively conferred on the industrial tribunal, protecting employees against ‘harsh, unjust or unreasonable’ dismissal. It argues that, while there is no clamour by employers or unions for a major overhaul of the unfair dismissal laws, legislative reform is required to promote more vigorously a ‘fair deal’ for Australian workers, especially for currently excluded categories of workers (such as gig workers and dependent contractors), and to improve access to justice in dismissal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-277
Number of pages30
JournalKing's Law Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • access to justice
  • award protection
  • compensation
  • dependent contractors
  • gig workers
  • law reform
  • problem of small businesses
  • reinstatement
  • statutory protection
  • Unfair dismissal
  • unjust or unreasonable’ dismissal
  • ‘Harsh

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