Employer praised by FWC for “commendable” approach to firing tardy employee

by Victoria Bruce29 Mar 2016
A company that fired a habitually late employee has been praised by the FWC for their “commendable” approach when terminating his employment.
The employee was a habitual late-comer who repeatedly failed to turn up to work on time and had on one occasion arrived to work an hour late, telling his employer he had slept through his alarm.
In Todd Allan Rooney v Pickles Auctions Pty Ltd [2016] FWC 858, the Fair Work Commission commended the process followed by his employer when deciding to sack him for repeated lateness.
The applicant was often late for work and had received both written and verbal warnings from his employer, the FWC heard.
One morning in June 2015, the employee slept through his alarm and arrived at work an hour late. His employer organised a meeting with him that afternoon where he was asked to provide a reason for his lateness and advised that his employment was at risk because of his poor attendance record.
Despite being provided an opportunity to make further comments, the employee did not give a satisfactory explanation for his lateness, or for failing to tell his supervisor that he was going to be late that day.
The employer then adjourned the meeting to consider the employee’s ongoing employment.
The employee’s work history and his explanation for his lateness were factors taken into account by his employer during the adjournment, while the employer also consulted with its employee relations staff.
The employer also took into account the prior warnings issued for late attendance and other warnings relating to instances of misconduct.
In the end, the employer decided to terminate the applicant's employment. When reconvening the meeting, his boss advised the employee that he would be dismissed from his position both verbally and in writing.
The written letter provided to the employee explained the reasons for his dismissal and referred to his previous warnings and highlighted the fact that although the employee had been given an opportunity to improve his attendance, there had been no satisfactory improvement.
The FWC held that the employee’s persistent tardiness was a valid reason for dismissal and the employer's approach when dealing with his termination "should be properly recognised as commendable”.
Amber Sharp, Partner at Marque Lawyers says that the employer followed textbook procedure when considering the employee’s dismissal.
“While the FWC described the approach as commendable, really it wasn’t rocket science,” Sharp told HC Online.
“The employer provided numerous verbal and written warnings, and before making a final decision to terminate, gave the employee an opportunity to respond,”
“This is stock standard stuff that should precede any termination.”
Sharps advises employers to make an effort to find out if there is any reason for an employee’s habitual lateness.  
“Dropping the kids at day care should be afforded different weight to ‘I accidentally slept in, again’,” Sharp says.
“If the former, think about whether the scheduled starting time is absolutely necessary, and whether the employer and employee can instead agree on a later start and finishing time.”

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