The Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission has power to deal with claims for benefits that have been denied under a contract of employment pursuant to the Industrial Relations Act 1979 (WA). Employees or former employees can bring this type of claim within 6 years against their employer/ former employer. The jurisdiction is similar to a common law breach of contract claim, however, a denied contractual benefits claim brought in the WAIRC is a no costs jurisdiction.
We recently received a successful decision in a denied contractual benefits claim. The decision delivered 3 January 2017 found that the claimant, Mr Robert Whooley, was denied a contractual benefit under his employment contract with the Shire of Denmark and was awarded damages. There were two key legal issues in the case that we had to overcome:
- Whether the dismissal was valid; and
- Whether the parties had entered into a binding agreement in an unfair dismissal claim at the Fair Work Commission (Mr Whooley was not represented by us in those proceedings) which barred Mr Whooley from bringing a denied contractual benefits claim in the WAIRC.
The WAIRC determined in our favour that the Shire did not comply with their requirements under the Local Government Act 1995 (WA) and the termination of Mr Whooley was “wholly invalid and ineffective”; and the agreement (by way of deed) reached by the parties at the Fair Work Commission was unable to be binding as there was nothing upon which the agreement could fasten (given that the dismissal was not valid to begin with).
The Commission found the case was on terms with an old English case of Galloway v Galloway (1914) TLR 531 where it was held there could be no agreement arising out of a purported separation deed when the man and woman entering the deed mistakenly thought that they were married when they were, in fact, not married.
Accordingly, Mr Whooley was awarded damages to an amount to be determined at a later date.
Robert Whooley v Shire of Denmark  WAIRC 1