No reinstatement for Big Mac eater

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A former CSIRO employee has been denied his request for reinstatement, following his resignation after being called to account over using a company car to go through a fast food drive-thru.

Jack Hoffman was employed by the CSIRO for 10 years, and prior to his departure was subject to an internal misconduct investigation after he was observed by colleagues buying a burger in a McDonald's drive-through whilst driving a work vehicle in May 2012.

As a result, he was stood down over his private use of the CSIRO car, as personal use of vehicles was specifically prohibited. However, Hoffman was later reinstated in June of the same year. However shortly afterwards the worker resigned, but claimed to the workplace watchdog that he was forced out by a campaign of bullying and harassment. Yet his alleged case of constructive dismissal was thrown out by the Fair Work Commission, as the former technician missed the cut-off date to submit the application by 119 days.

Tax issues

A common reason the private use of company vehicles is heavily restricted is due to the fringe benefit tax liability that additional usage may incur.

For example, in cases where a company car is provided for business purposes only, there is no fringe benefits tax liability. However in cases where the car is used for private purposes, the employer is liable to pay a fringe benefits tax for every day there is private use of the vehicle.

The Australian Taxation Office defines ‘private use’ of a company vehicle as including:
 

  • Using the car to travel between home and work
  • Garaging the vehicle at employee’s home, or nearby
  • If the car in principally under the employee’s “custody or control”.

Importantly, an employer is not liable to pay a fringe benefits tax if the car is considered a commercial vehicle – namely that it carries company branding, or is a taxi, panel van or utility, and the only instance of the vehicle being used for private use is in work-related travel, and the vehicle being garaged at the employee’s residence after having been used for work purposes.

For more information, consult the ATO’s FBT — A guide for employers and the FBT car calculator

  • Peter on 13/02/2013 4:26:41 PM

    I am seriously happy that the workmates aren't mine. With mates like that you don't need enemies, or else they were seriously cheesed off with him for other reasons. This is bureaucracy gone mad. If he had stopped for petrol and bought a coffee and pie while there I assume it would have been OK. I don't think I would bother with the company car. Drive your own and claim mileage.

  • Karen on 13/02/2013 6:09:35 PM

    Unbelievable.. All that time money and drama for how much potential fringe benefits tax and after 10 years of service' .. Remind me of the benefits of creating that drama.. Oh none! Thought so

  • July on 14/02/2013 9:03:49 AM

    Been there, done that. If your not the CEO's buddy....look out for the redundancy package or the faults that they will find about you.....workmates like this you don't need them in your life !!!

  • Rach on 14/02/2013 9:24:28 AM

    Seriously, so what if he stopped for a burger? Maybe he was hungry? Maybe he forgot his lunch? Hardly a serious misdemeanor; a brief chat and reiteration as to why it's not ok should usually suffice. But for him to feel as though he had to resign, I can imagine that the internal investigation must have been a little intimidating...
    As far as FBT goes, couldn't this come under 'minor/infrequent' use? I'm assuming he didn't travel 100's of klms, there are McDonalds everywhere. Poor guy, he's probably better off not working for the CSIRO if they're so up-tight. How on earth can employees be creative if they get in trouble for such a minor thing?

  • Anthony on 14/02/2013 7:07:40 PM

    I'll remember to skip past any CSIRO job adverts...

    Stories like that help one understand why militant unionism was the predominant work environment / ethic in Australian industry and commerce, until the early 1980's and shouldn't be condemned.

    Employers and worse: fellow employees, can now practice this kind of harassment with impunity...

  • Christopher Gillis-Daley on 18/02/2013 3:57:03 PM

    Any employee who has to stop for a big mac while on a routine work trip obviously is either obese and/or has extreme self control issues. This was most likely just the latest in a long line of performance related issues which are unfortunately common place among workers who are above the healthy BMI range.

    Lets not be too hasty in judging the CSIRO.

  • Irene on 19/02/2013 4:06:33 PM

    I was not aware that a link has been identified between performance related issues and workers who are above the healthy BMI range.

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