Sally Rugg claims Monique Ryan sacked her for refusing to work ‘unreasonable’ hours

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Comment is being sought from Ryan.

According to the Fair Work Act, employees may refuse to work unreasonable hours based on a number of factors that include their health, personal circumstances, the usual requirements and patterns of work in the industry, and the employee’s level of responsibility.

Rugg has also invoked the enterprise agreement for MPs’ staff, which sets out the parameters of ordinary and additional working hours.

The agreement also says the level of payment provided to politicians’ electorate and personal staff, including allowances and other benefits, reflects an expectation they will be regularly required to work more than a standard week.

The case has been launched against the backdrop of the Albanese government last year slashing the staff allocation for independent MPs from four to one, over which Ryan accused Labor of attacking the crossbench.

“This measure is aimed at decreasing the effectiveness of the community independents in particular,” she said in June.

Parliament House also saw an increased focus on its own workplace practices and treatment of politicians’ staff following the release of Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins’ Set the Standard report in late 2021, and other high-profile allegations regarding parliamentary culture.

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A review published by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in October recommended politicians’ ability to terminate their staff should be limited.

After her recruitment, Rugg told this masthead’s CBD column she had been drawn to Ryan since her performance in a town hall debate against Frydenberg midway through the election campaign.

“What drew me to Monique was obviously the policy priorities – climate change, gender equity, integrity and transparency in politics – but also her approach as a grassroots, community-connected independent,” she said.

In July, Ryan described Rugg as an “outstanding all-rounder with excellent leadership experience, a proven track record of effective policy advocacy, and high-level strategic communications skills”.

She lauded Rugg’s experience as a political strategist, including supporting the Home to Bilo campaign to return a family of asylum seekers to the Queensland town of Biloela, women’s safety in Parliament House, and ABC funding.

An interlocutory hearing before judge Debra Mortimer has been set down for 10.15am on Friday in Melbourne.

Cut through the noise of federal politics with news, views and expert analysis from Jacqueline Maley. Subscribers can sign up to our weekly Inside Politics newsletter here.

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