In Australia you can fire by text message

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Fair Work Australia has said sacking an employee by text message is acceptable in certain circumstances.

The workplace tribunal has upheld the termination of a spray painter, Brett Martin, who was sacked via a text message from his employer DecoGlaze in May, after not using an additive to paint so it would stick to glass.

DecoGlaze managing director, Jason Hedges, said the former employee's carelessness had cost the business $74,000, due to replacing and repainting the glass.

Fair Work commissioner Frank Raffaelli said that  because the former employee was on leave at the time of the decision, and about to go overseas, firing him by text message was "understandable".

"While it might have been better if there had been a face-to-face meeting ... it was also understandable for [the employer] to get to the bottom of the issue quickly to minimise potential problems with customers. In most situations, termination of employment by telephone texting is not appropriate.

However, in this case I am not prepared to be too critical ... even if there had been a face-to-face meeting, the outcome would probably have been the same," Raffaelli said.

Further, Fair Work said the employer's decision to sack the employee was justifiable as the negligence of Martin had threatened the company's "reputation and therefore its viability".

Martin had been employed for nearly five years at DecoGlaze and said he had not been given clear instructions on the use of the additive. Yet, Raffaelli accepted evidence from the employer that Martin must have known to use the additive, and therefore his failure to do so constituted a "valid reason" for dismissal.

In May, Fair Work Australia was highly critical of the sacking by text message of a Sydney retail assistant. The Commissioner, Ian Cambridge, said that when "dismissal is implemented by any means other than face-to-face communication; both the legal and ethical basis for the decision to dismiss is likely to face strong and successful challenge".

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