Lack of HR exposes trucking firm to unfair dismissal

Small-time trucking outfit ordered to pay $20,000 in compensation after it failed to follow correct procedures when sacking its driver

Lack of HR exposes trucking firm to unfair dismissal
Lack of HR exposes small trucking firm
By Brad Gardner | September 11, 2013

A lack of human resources expertise has left a small-time trucking outfit exposed when sacking a driver, with the workplace umpire ordering it to pay $20,000 compensation for unfair dismissal.

The Fair Work Commission (FWC) ordered Patrick McInerney Transport to pay Daryl Chillmaid the hefty sum for the company’s decision to fire him without warning and for failing to notify the driver of the reason for his dismissal.

Both are key requirements a business must adhere to when terminating an employee, along with giving them access to a support person and an opportunity to respond to any reason for their sacking. Owner Patrick McInerney fired Chillmaid over the phone without notice.

"No structured process was followed by the respondent. This is not surprising given the one truck operation," FWC Deputy President Jeff Lawrence says.

"There is no doubt that the absence of dedicated human resource management or expertise in the respondent’s enterprise impacted on the procedures followed in effecting the dismissal. Of course, this issue is closely related to the size of the business.

"Proper human resource management would have identified any problems with the applicant’s work, counselled him, provided additional training if necessary and recorded the whole process."

The commission heard that McInerney phoned Chillmaid while the driver was receiving treatment at a doctor’s surgery for a serious illness to tell him he was selling the truck and that the driver no longer had a job.

McInerney says he gave Chillmaid verbal warnings for previous incidents that had led to complaints from clients, but Lawrence says they did not justify dismissal.

"There was evidence of previous verbal warnings which were disputed by the applicant. There was correspondence in evidence from a client expressing dissatisfaction with the applicant," he says.

"However, even if there was substance in this complaint, I find that the respondent did not warn the applicant of his alleged unsatisfactory performance before the dismissal. Certainly there was no clear articulation of the consequences being likely dismissal."

Lawrence says Chillmaid has serious medical issues and has been unable to find employment since he lost his job.

"I am satisfied that an order for compensation is appropriate in all the circumstances of this case."

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