Commission ruling on pharmacy technician’s unfair dismissal highlights the necessity for quality advice for franchise operations

The recent dismissal of a pharmacy dispensary technician, for not meeting “front of shop standards”, highlights the urgent need for small business franchisees to have access to quality human resources advice.



The Commission upheld the dismissal in question, citing the validity that the human resources expertise available to a franchisee, from a franchisor, cannot be taken into account as there was a lack of dedicated HR skills and procedures in place, due to the smaller size of the company.   In addition to lacking “front of shop” suitability, the employer alleged the technician:

• made errors in the Controlled Drugs Register Book (which were tendered in evidence)

• refused to promote the chain’s brand items whilst handing out prescriptions (despite being requested to do so)

• failed to achieve such targets as the “scripts on file” service for customers

• despite having been trained in broad based front shop duties (including counting the till, working EFTPOS, and conducting end-of-day tasks), performed these responsibilities with a negative attitude and low enthusiasm, affecting the pharmacy’s image


The employee argued that the employer had access to HR resources “through its franchise relationship”, making allegations that included:

• being provided with a uniform that had holes in the seams (or loose seams), with direction by the employer to make the repairs herself

• the workplace’s female staff toilet facilities had been inadequate and she was instructed to make use of the pharmacy’s shopping complex’s general staff toilets

• the pharmacist required her to wash (and reuse) the methadone cups after they had been used by clients


The Commission indicated that the employer “was a small enterprise which had no dedicated human resource management specialists or expertise at its disposal”. It also determined that the employee’s concerns had not been raised to the employer, at least to the extent of implying serious focus, and that the employer had given ample warnings in relation to her performance.

However, the employee was unaware that termination of employment was a possibility, and the Commission found that dismissal during her performance review, at which the employee didn’t have an opportunity to defend herself, was deemed harsh.

“It seems reasonable to me to presume that the absence of such resources provides an explanation for the procedure adopted for purposes of effecting the dismissal”, stated the Commission, while countering, “I do not consider the size of the business and the absence of dedicated HR resources to be factors, however, that discharge all obligations on the part of an employer to afford an employee due procedural fairness.”

While the employer won this case, it had to defend a costly case and was required to pay four weeks compensation.

Where operations are spread across many locations it can be difficult for HR staff to keep up with enquiries and relevant state and territory legislation. Our employer advisory service for multi-location organisations is designed to provide advice on a day-to-day basis to those dealing with HR matters at all levels. Our expert advisers can ensure that your organisation’s staff, which access the service, are provided with prompt, accurate advice that is relevant to their location.

This service is ideal for franchise operations or for organisations with multiple sites.  We provide practical advice, at the time it is needed, on workplace relations and HR issues ranging from everyday performance management matters to high risk sexual harassment and bullying complaints.


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