The dismissal of a worker who supposedly stole the break room Milo has been found to be unfair. A supermarket chain was recently required to reinstate an individual in his original position and back pay him for lost wages at his original rate of pay after their decision to dismiss him was found to be unfair.

The dismissal came after a colleague reported the worker had a significant amount of the complimentary Milo in his bag, with the intention of taking it home.

The retailer’s workplace investigation determined that the Milo was taken from the communal tin and the matter was treated as a workplace theft, resulting in the immediate dismissal of the employee. However, the Fair Work Commission discovered that the worker was taking the Milo home with the intention of mixing it with his own coffee and sugar and bringing it back the next day. The commission then decided that, as the Milo was intended for the use of employees at work and the employee intended to consume it at work, he was within his rights to take some home.

Dismissals such as these may seem fair at face value but with further scrutiny, evidence can be uncovered which shows that the actions of the worker or circumstances in which these actions were undertaken, may be different than they first appeared.

Therefore it is imperative that anyone undertaking a workplace investigation into suspected misconduct is appropriately trained and follows the proper procedure, affording the worker alleged to have behaved inappropriately the opportunity to respond to allegations against them.

Unfair dismissal cases can incur financial and reputational costs to the organisation so where there is doubt or uncertainty it is prudent to seek help from an external provider.

Enlisting the services of a workplace investigation professional, either to conduct an investigation or to review an internal investigation, can help mitigate the risk of an unfair dismissal claim, protecting your organisation from significant financial loss or brand damage.

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