In a recent case regarding a human resource manager, manager and a long-serving employee, the Fair Work Commission has found that a better briefing to a manager should have occurred before he dismissed an employee during a meeting. The employee had been working for K&S Freighters Pty Ltd for over 30 years without blemish.
The employee’s employment was terminated in the first and only meeting for allegations of misusing a fuel-card and providing services without charging. The company conducted an investigation into the matter without advising the employee that his conduct was an issue and under investigation.
The area manager divulged that he had been instructed by the HR manager to dismiss the employee at the meeting and was under strict instructions to take this action and provide the employee with a letter of termination.
The Commissioner approved that an employee using a company fuel card for unapproved purchases more than $800 in petrol while on leave and dispatching freight without the correct documentation and charging was a valid reason for dismissal. These actions were breaching the company policy.
The Commissioner highlighted that there was a lack of procedural fairness by carrying out an investigation without notifying the employee that they had breached policies and were now under investigation. As a result, the employee did not have the opportunity to consider the claims made or provide a response to explain his actions. Additionally, the employee was not notified of the reason for his dismissal prior to the decision to terminate his employment.
Commissioner Bissett said the procedural unfairness was found unreasonable “in circumstances where, had an open investigation been undertaken and had he been given an opportunity to respond, an alternative penalty may have been applied and in circumstances where he otherwise has a 30-year unblemished record”.
Reinstatement of the employee was considered inappropriate as the company could no longer trust the employee and the trust would be difficult to be rebuilt. Further directions will be issued before the Commissioner determines compensation.
This case serves as a reminder to correctly follow disciplinary meeting procedures. For more information regarding meeting procedures and correct termination processes please call the NRA Hotline on 1800 738 245 and speak to one of our Workplace Advisors.