Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fire at will bill will not lead to 13 week benefit stand downs

There has been a fair bit of scaremongering by the Greens that the Fire at Will Bill will lead to people losing their jobs and not being eligible for a benefit for 13 weeks. In fact it is the opposite - people who are fired at will for misconduct under the 90 day legislation will be much less likely to get a long stand down.

Firstly, if you are fired within the 90 days and your partner works you are not eligible for a benefit anyway. Secondly, the 13 weeks only applies to a work tested benefit and is a discretionary stand down, not a mandatory one as the MSD can choose not to apply it. If they go on a sickness, invalids or DPB, the stand down won't apply.

Section 60H of the Social Security Act provides for the stand down if an employee leaves their place of employment without a good and sufficient reason.Unemployed means resigning from or otherwise leaving employment, other than by dismissal. Any firing is dismissal. However the section also applies if an employee has lost his job because of misconduct. Misconduct cannot be proven under the 90 day legislation as an employee can't challenge it in a personal grievance - the only method of establishing whether the employer acted with good and sufficient reason, whether that reason was misconduct or simply a bad case of BO. .So a stand down can't be legally imposed as there is no test of that good and sufficient reason.

Sue Bradford wrongly says that if an employee who is dismissed, say, on suspicion of theft, will be stood down from the dole for 13 weeks, and will have no means of challenging the stand-down. Mere suspicion is not a good and sufficient reason and a decision to stand down on something that may not have happened can certainly be challenged. But, for those who don't know beneficiary rights - including Sue Bradford and most WINZ Case Managers - they wouldn't know that a person can get out of a 13 week stand down purly by attending a mandatory interview in preparation for employment, and an approved activity. This could be as simple as getting a free CV and doing the interview applying for a benefit and receiving a Job Seekers Agreement.

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