Emil Ford Lawyers

Employment for a specified task

The unfair dismissal provisions in the Fair Work Act 2009 are a significant source of rights for employees whose employment has been terminated or who choose to resign because of their employer’s conduct. One of the pre-conditions to making an unfair dismissal claim is that an employee must have been dismissed.

An employee who has been employed for “a specified task” is not dismissed when that task has been performed. The Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission has recently clarified this exception.

An employee had been employed by a consulting agency to provide technical support for a client’s construction project. The employment contract provided that the contract would terminate on the “demobilisation of the project”. The employee was dismissed after her employer was informed by the client that the employee’s consultation services were no longer required.

The employee commenced an action for unfair dismissal, which was dismissed at first instance on the basis that the employment was for a specified task. The Full Bench found that the employer could not rely on the specified task exclusion since there was no identifiable piece of work that the employee had been employed to perform. However, the Full Bench found that, though the employee had been dismissed, the dismissal was not unfair as the employee had been employed on the understanding that their employment would end when the client decided they no longer needed the employee’s services. The Full Bench also took into consideration the absence of alternative positions within the employer’s organisation, the payment of an acceptable termination payment, and the financial consequences of the dismissal.


"This case emphasises the importance of clarity in employment contracts."

This case illustrates some of the principles that will be applied in determining an unfair dismissal claim, and emphasises the importance of clarity in employment contracts. An employer seeking to rely on the specified task exclusion must clearly define the task that an employee is employed to perform, and specify that the employee’s position will terminate once that task has been completed. This is a helpful reminder to those organisations which engage employees on a fixed term basis.

Unfair dismissal is a difficult area to navigate. Please contact David Ford () or Nathan Croot () if you have any questions relating to the termination of employment.

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