Members are reminded of the importance of complying with their own workplace policies. A recent Fair Work Commission decision has ruled in favour of an employee went it was found that whilst the company had a valid reason for his dismissal, the company or persons with authority in the company encouraged the employee to defer from his obligations under relevant company policies. Company policies should be implemented correctly and applied to all applicable workers across the organisation. Workplace policies should be used as a guide for better practice and not be used as a tool for discipline including termination of employment.
Case study: Fair Work Commission ruled on compensation
Recently, a truck driver was awarded compensation of $21,495 (noting the maximum compensation is 26 weeks of the worker’s wages) following his unfair dismissal by a waste management company. The truck driver was subjected to targeted audits after his request for a permanent role and was subsequently sacked.
Immediately after the driver’s request for casual conversation, his average weekly hours were cut down substantially, and he was subjected to “random” audits of his run sheets in accordance with the company’s fatigue management policy. His run sheets indicated discrepancies in his break times and multiple fatigue breaches.
In November 2021, the company dismissed its casual truck driver for not complying with the heavy vehicle fatigue management laws and the company’s fatigue management policy. The company said that the truck driver’s non-compliance of company policy involves the falsification of run sheets and failure to take fatigue breaks in accordance with heavy vehicle fatigue management laws and company policy. The company argued the truck driver’s conduct amounted to serious misconduct as he breached its “life-saving rules” to which a zero-tolerance policy applies.
The Fair Work Commission accepted that the company had a valid reason for the dismissal due to the worker’s repeated falsification of his break times, noting he had been warned in toolbox talks about the consequences of not complying with the company’s fatigue management policy. However, the Commissioner found that the relevant fatigue laws did not apply to the driver as the weight of the truck was below what is required in the fatigue laws. Furthermore, the Commission found that his supervisors encouraged his alleged non-compliance by asking him to adjust his fatigue breaks.
In considering the company’s argument, the commissioner found that:
The Commissioner said, “the value of written safety procedures is quickly undermined if and when they are not applied in practice”.
In light of this recent decision, members are reminded of the importance of complying with their own workplace policies. Company policies should be implemented and applied to all applicable workers across the organisation. The workplace policies should be used as a guide for better practice and not be used as a tool for discipline including termination of employment.
If you need assistance or have concerns about ending someone’s employment, please reach out to our Workplace Relations and Legal Team on (02) 6175 5900.