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Illegal Dismissal Justified By Health And Safety Obligations

Posted by Robert O'Neill on Jul 15, 2014 10:55:00 PM
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Case Dismissed

Even if it is stipulated in an enterprise agreement or contract that a specific standard for safety and health must be followed, additional requirements from employees are justified by overarching statutory frameworks.





Workplace Safety

The management and solution of occupational injuries is considered a delicate issue. This is because there are several issues that need to be taken into consideration – some of these include obligations under safety and health laws, adverse action from employers, illegal and unfair dismissal claims, and worker’s right to back wages and compensation – all of these can sometimes lead to conflicting employer and employee obligations which have to be reconciled.

In recent cases, one particular issue that has risen is the extent when an employee’s obligations and rights, which are dictated by a contract of enterprise agreement, should be interpreted in accordance with an employer’s duty to always promote health and safety inside the workplace.

In the case of employee against his employer, BHP Coal Pty Ltd, the employee Mr. Grant made a claim for illegal dismissal, saying that his employer did not have the grounds to terminate him from his employment, even if he has failed to comply with different directions asking him to seek medical assessment.

According to the decision which was penned by Commissioner Spencer for the purpose of illegal dismissal cases, the reasonableness of the decision of an employer to terminate the worker should not be read solely as regards to the contract or enterprise agreement which was entered into by the parties – the obligations of an employer when it comes to his employees’ health and safety could adequately justify the action.

Facts Of The Case

Mr. Darrin Grant was a boil maker at Peak Downs Mine, operated by BHP Coal Pty Ltd. In October of 2011, Grant injured his shoulder while in the line of duty. Subsequently, he sustained a series of other injuries which paved the way for him to take an extended period of sick leave, lasting for more or less two years.

Upon his return in 2013, Grant gave his employer a “fit to work medical certificate” saying that he is now capable of returning to his duties before the accidents occurred. This started a series of events which resulted to Grant’s dismissal.

Because of the foregoing, Grant filed an illegal dismissal case under the Fair Work Act of 2009.

Under the said law, an unfair dismissal happens when there is unreasonable, unjust and harsh dismissal of the employee. There are actually a lot of factors which need to be considered in determining if such a case exists.

However, the main issue in Grant’s case was whether or not there was valid reason for his termination.

In every employment contract, there is an implied stipulation that employees need to comply with reasonable and lawful directions from his employer. If the worker fails to do so, this can be a valid ground for termination.

Through the course of the proceedings, Commissioner Spencer ruled that BHP Coal Pty Ltd’s directions were both reasonable and lawful. Thus, Grant’s failure to follow them was just grounds for his dismissal.

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