It is not uncommon for people to meet their partner in the workplace or employ their spouse or partner in their small business to provide additional support and reduce labour costs. Disputes may arise if your ex-partner starts causing problems in the workplace through improper behavior or dishonesty. In this blog, we review whether you can terminate your ex-partner’s employment and evaluate some considerations for the future.

Can I terminate my ex-partner’s employment?

You can terminate your ex-partner’s employment on the condition that the termination is lawful and would be for the same reasons as any other employee in your workplace, regardless of their relationship to you. There must a valid reason for their dismissal and this will vary depending on your individual circumstances.

If you wish to avoid having an unfair dismissal claim lodged with the Fair Work Commission against you, it is vitally important that the employment termination is:

  1. For a valid purpose
  2. Not harsh, unjust or unreasonable; and
  3. Not made for an unlawful

Meaning of Unlawful Termination

The Fair Work Act 2009 states that an employer must not terminate an employee’s employment for an unlawful reason. Simply disliking your ex-partner and no longer wishing to see them in the workplace is not a valid reason to dismiss them. Examples of ‘unlawful reasons’ include dismissals based on:

  • Protected traits such as race, colour, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carer’s responsibilities, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin;
  • Temporary absence from work because of illness or injury;
  • Trade union membership or participation in trade union activities outside working hours;
  • The filing of a complaint, or the participation in proceedings, against the employer involving alleged violation of laws or regulations or recourse to competent administrative authorities; and
  • Absence from work during maternity leave or other parental leave.

Valid Reasons for Dismissal

A lawful and valid reason for dismissal will vary and it is advised that you seek legal advice before terminating an employee. In most cases, you may have a valid reason to terminate employment if your ex-partner displays some of the following behavior:

  • Inappropriate conduct such as harassment
  • Creating conflict for clients or other employees
  • Improper use of company funds
  • Not abiding by workplace policies

Other considerations

If you are satisfied that a valid reason for dismissal exists, you must ensure that you provide adequate notice, an opportunity to respond, and the reasons for dismissal. You should consider providing ‘warnings’ or offer mediation conferences to your ex-partner before considering dismissal, as often their behaviour or performance may improve and you may be less likely to face an unfair dismissal claim.

You should also consider whether terminating your ex-partner’s employment may leave you vulnerable to a spousal maintenance claim. Spousal maintenance is where one partner provides financial support to the other partner upon the relationship breaking down. To learn more about spousal maintenance, see our blog here.

Contact Etheringtons Solicitors

Various employment and family law problems that stem from workplace relationships can lead to complicated legal repercussions. The team at Etheringtons solicitors are highly skilled in navigating both employment law and family law matters and are able to assist you every step of the way during your legal proceedings.

If you or someone you know needs help and would like to have a confidential no-obligation discussion, please call Etheringtons Solicitors on (02) 9963 9800 or send us a message via our contact form.