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Four Essential Lessons for Small Businesses Following a Landmark Unfair Dismissal Case in the Floral Industry

In a recent case at Tony’s Wholesale Flowers in Adelaide, a casual worker named Kate Clift won an unfair dismissal claim at the Fair Work Commission. The verdict has significant implications for small businesses, highlighting crucial lessons that employers should heed to avoid similar situations in the future. Let’s delve into the four key lessons emerging from this case.

Regular and Systematic Casual Employees May Be Protected

Employers must recognize that regular and systematic casual employees, like Kate Clift, can be safeguarded against unfair dismissal. Clift’s employment, which spanned 19 months, consisted of consistent and structured shifts. Small businesses should acknowledge that even long-term casual workers may possess entitlements to protection if their employment conditions meet specific criteria.

Communication and Procedural Fairness Are Vital

Tony’s Wholesale Flowers made fundamental errors in terminating staff. Lack of proper communication and consultation with Clift regarding the reasons for dismissal deprived her of procedural fairness. Employers must ensure that they adequately inform employees about the reasons for termination, offer a reasonable opportunity to respond, and adhere to basic standards of procedural fairness to avoid potential legal repercussions.

Contractual Provisions Don’t Override Employee Protections

The case underscores the importance of understanding that provisions within an employment contract may not override an employee’s rights protected by the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth). Regardless of contractual terms, employees like Clift are entitled to safeguards against unfair dismissal. Small businesses should consider these legal protections and act in accordance with them, even if their contracts contain different clauses.

Valid Reasons for Termination Are Essential

The case brings to light the necessity of providing valid reasons for terminating an employee. In Clift’s situation, her employer claimed that the dismissal was due to the conclusion of the busy period. However, the timing of the dismissal, just before Mother’s Day, a peak day for the flower industry, raised doubts about this explanation. Small businesses must ensure that reasons for termination are justifiable and linked to an employee’s capacity or conduct to avoid potential claims of unfair dismissal.


The outcome of Kate Clift’s unfair dismissal case against Tony’s Wholesale Flowers holds valuable lessons for small businesses. Employers should understand the protection afforded to regular and systematic casual employees, communicate effectively, adhere to procedural fairness, consider employee protections under the law, and provide valid reasons for termination.

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