Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What was WorkChoices? And why was it so unpopular?

In relation to unfair dismissal, WorkChoices provided that no claim for unfair dismissal could be made if the employer, at the time of termination, employed 100 employees or less. The figure of 100 included the employee whose employment was terminated, as well as part-time and casual employees who had been engaged on a regular and systematic basis for a period or a sequence of periods of at least 12 months.

The primary aim of WorkChoices was to individualise employment relations and, as a consequence, to marginalise both trade unions and industrial tribunals. Further aims of WorkChoices included:

  • To offer employers greater flexibility in the terms and conditions on which they could employ workers;
  • To reduce the role played by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission in determining employment conditions and resolving industrial disputes;
  • To make it more difficult for unions to enter workplaces or organise industrial action; and
  • To reduce the exposure of employers to unfair dismissal claims.

The system was heavily criticised on the basis that many low-income earners and small business employees were being hurt by the legislation. They argued that as a result of WorkChoices they were losing conditions at work, penalty rates and overtime were being taken away, and too many of them were being unfairly dismissed, with little remedial action available.


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