Employer

University of Melbourne

Issue

Non-renewal of contract following claim for additional work hours

Legal Outcome

Admission of contraventions and proposed penalty

Reforms

Implementation of improved management practices for casual staff

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Introduction

The University of Melbourne has conceded that it did not offer further contracts to a casual academic after she filed a claim for additional work hours, marking a significant admission in a Federal Court case initiated by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Background

A casual academic at the University of Melbourne was not rehired after attempting to claim five extra hours beyond her contracted 12 hours of support work. This incident followed a meeting where a supervisor implied that claiming beyond contracted hours could jeopardize future employment opportunities.

Legal Proceedings

The Fair Work Ombudsman accused the university of taking adverse action against the academic for exercising her workplace rights. During the court proceedings, the university admitted to the contraventions, and a penalty of $37,295 was proposed by the involved parties.

University’s Response

The University of Melbourne, represented by barrister Richard Dalton KC, acknowledged the inadequacy of its processes for managing casual staff and reported implementing reforms to enhance oversight and management.

Court’s Deliberation

The court heard differing perspectives on the supervisor’s intentions and the impact of their statements on the academic’s employment. The university’s representation downplayed the supervisor’s actions, while the ombudsman’s barrister emphasized the serious nature of the threat to employment.

Compensation and Reforms

The affected academic has received compensation, and the university has introduced several reforms to improve its treatment of casual staff. Additionally, the university is involved in another legal case concerning the alleged underpayment of 14 casual academics.

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