Glass manufacturer ACI Operations has been ordered to pay a former employee $20,400 after falling short of the appropriate notice of termination period by just two days.
The worker had been employed by ACI Operations since March 1996 but sustained a workplace injury in April 2009, which qualified him for workers’ compensation.
The Federal Circuit Court in Adelaide heard in October 2012, ACI Operations advised the worker his employment would be terminated the following month.
While the notice of termination complied with workers’ compensation legislation, the court ruled the termination did not comply with the Fair Work Act because the worker was entitled to a further two days’ notice.
The Federal Circuit Court in Adelaide heard the worker suffered a loss of $181.66 due to the two days’ notice he was entitled to.
Federal Magistrate Denys Simpson described the lack of proper notice or pay in lieu as “somewhat bizarre”.
“No satisfactory excuse for not complying has been provided,” Simpson said in his judgment.
“From the court’s point of view, it would seem to be a storm in a teacup that should have been resolved at a very early stage.”
As a result, ACI Operations has been ordered to pay the worker $20,400.
In addition, the company’s HR manager was fined $1020 for her role in not providing enough notice to the former employee, despite the court finding she was not being “heavily involved in the contravention”.
Warwick Ryan, partner at Swaab Attorneys, told SmartCompany the lesson for business owners in this case is to get good legal advice from the outset.
“A lot of managers expect HR to understand the law of employment,” Ryan says.
“A lot of HR manager think they understand the law of employment. But when it comes down to technical questions, particularly where there are contracts involved, both parties’ beliefs are generally misplaced.”
Ryan says businesses need to understand that employment law is a very complex part of Australia’s legal system.
“Not because it is intellectually difficult, but because there are about two or three different sources of it – or more – often conflicting,” Ryan says.
“If you have someone who’s under workers’ compensation, and you’re terminating them, then there are three or four different pieces of legislation which will have something to say about that and often the opposite to one another. And then you have the contract as well.”
SmartCompany contacted ACI Operations for comment, but did not receive a response prior to publication. SmartCompany was unable to contact the worker prior to publication.
*This article was updated on July 7, 2016.