It is of the utmost importance that employees are informed of workplace policy changes when employer’s implement new policies. There are two reasons why sufficient notification is important. Firstly, employees are aware of the new requirements and can implement them in their day to day work; and secondly, in the absence of such notification, an employee can raise their ignorance of a workplace policy as an objection to termination.
This was the issue before the Fair Work Commission in the decision of Con Perry v ComfortDelGro Cabcharge Pty Ltd T/A Hillsbus Co Pty Ltd.
Mr Perry was employed as a bus driver for Hillsbus. On 21 October 2015, a passenger complained that they had seen Mr Perry touching his phone on two separate occasions.
Following this, Mr Perry was suspended by Hillsbus who cited that his performance fell short of the standards expected by the company. Hillsbus referred to the Road Rules 2014 (NSW) which prohibits the use of mobile phones, including listening to music whilst operating a vehicle. In addition, the Hillsbus Drivers Guide and Policy prohibited bus drivers from using mobile phones or similar device whilst operating a bus.
Hearing and decision
Mr Perry represented himself before the commission, alleging that his dismissal was unfair and sought to be reinstated to his position.
According to Mr Perry he was listening to music on an old mobile phone that had no sim-card and he argued that he was not in breach of the policy because he was not using a working mobile phone.
The Commission noted that although Mr Perry had been given a copy of the Drivers Guide and Policy he had not been provided with further updates to the policy. The Hillsbus policy was also ambiguous as to how it applied to music devices as there was no definition of what a ‘small device’ was yet bus drivers were allowed to listen to music on radios and MP3 players.
The Commission ultimately found that Mr Perry’s dismissal was harsh, unjust and unreasonable.
There are a number of important reminders that employers can take away from this decision:
- To notify employees of changes to policies, preferably before they are implemented.
- Training is a beneficial way of making sure employees understand any new changes to policies
- It may be wise for employer’s to make written records as evidence of training and notification of changes to workplace policies.
- To ensure that copies of policies are accessible to employees
- Make sure policies are drafted clearly and without ambiguity
If you need assistance in drafting or policy training, contact us
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