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Tribunal extinguishes smoker’s attempt to win back job

Effectively managing staff performance is crucial to creating a high performance culture.

Managing staff performance includes:

  • Managing underperformance;
  • Being able to have meaningful performance conversations with staff;
  • Identifying performance issues early; and
  • Understanding how to be fair and accurate when assessing performance.

 

A recent case before the Fair Work Commission shows the importance of employers effectively managing performance in the workplace.

The warehouse operator of large brewery commenced employment in late 1995.

There no record of concerns about the warehouse operator‘s performance prior to 2012.

In February 2012, the warehouse operator received a written warning for driving off-site prior to the completion of his shift. The employee was then placed on a six month performance plan.

In May 2012 the employee was observed smoking outside a designated smoking area. This was noted on the employee’s file.

In late 2013, the employee suffered a serious psychological breakdown and resigned his employment on 5 December 2013. The employee obtained a medical clearance for a return to work in March 2014 and recommenced employment in March 2014.

The employee’s return to work plan required the following:

• Fork-lift refresher training;
• Three weeks on day-shift for re-integration;
• A medical check-in meeting prior to returning to normal rotation; and
• Ongoing monitoring through fortnightly catch-ups with his manager and, as appropriate, a Health Centre.

It was also made clear to the employee that a condition of his return was that if the employer thought, at any stage, he was not able to act in a safe way, this would be raised with the employee and dealt with.

In November 2014, the employee received a written warning after he failed to comply with a safe loading procedure, in that he had admitted to loading a truck whilst the driver was not in the designated safety green zone.

In October 2015 the employee was found smoking in a non-designated smoking area.

A warehouse manager at the Melbourne site also claimed to have spotted the operator smoking while he was driving a gas-powered forklift in October 2015.

The operator admitted to the first allegation, but denied the second allegation that he was smoking while driving a forklift.

The warehouse operator was dismissed in November 2015 due to conduct "inconsistent with the trust and confidence required in the employee relationship" and was paid five weeks in lieu of notice.

The Fair Work Commission upheld the dismissal.

The Deputy President noted that the employee exhibited a pattern of behaviour that demonstrated a substantive history of disregard for adhering to site policies and procedures, specifically noting the employee’s lack of adherence to the workplace smoking policy.

It was further noted that the employee returned on a set of conditions that was rare and commendable in that they included back pay for the period between his resignation and re-engagement and continuity of service.

The above case illustrates the importance of employer’s effectively performance managing employees.

The employer’ case was strengthened by the following actions:

  • The employee had been provided with written warnings for inappropriate behaviour and this had been appropriately documented by the employer;
  • The employer provided support and assistance to the employee during his psychological breakdown;
  • The employee’s return to work plan in 2013 was well documented and the employee understood that any unsafe workplace behaviour would be dealt with seriously; and
  • The employee was placed on a performance management plan after their first warning in 2012.

iHR believes that prevention is the best cure and that managers need to understand what leadership behaviours help foster a high performance culture. This includes effectively managing performance issues in the workplace. Contact iHR today to learn more about effectively managing workplace performance.

 

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