Legal

Fair Work backs business that sacked pharmacist for taking personal calls at work and making too many errors

Broede Carmody /

 

The Fair Work Commission has backed a business that sacked an employee for performing his job too slowly, making too many errors while dispensing customer prescriptions and regularly taking personal phone calls at work.

Umer Khattak started working for Your Discount Chemist, a pharmacy chain in regional New South Wales, in 2010 as a pharmacist-in-charge at Laurieton.

However, the Fair Work Commission heard he was sacked four years later because he returned from leave “significantly later than expected”.

Shortly afterwards, Khattak was re-employed at Your Discount Chemist’s Port Macquarie store, before commencing as pharmacist-in-charge at the chain’s Lighthouse store because the previous pharmacist-in-charge went on parental leave.

In June this year Khattak was notified his employment would cease because he was too slow at his job, made frequent errors and often took calls on his personal mobile phone during work hours.

The pharmacist took the matter to the Fair Work Commission, arguing his errors were due to the fact that the previous pharmacist-in-charge did not conduct a proper handover with him prior to taking parental leave.

The commission heard that during the course of Khattak’s employment two meetings were held where various aspects of his performance was discussed, including the fact that customers had complained about not receiving their medication promptly or correctly.

In his ruling, president Jonathan Hamberger sided with Your Discount Chemist and found the business had a valid reason for terminating Khattak’s employment.

“I consider that Mr Khattak was put on notice in relation to the issues that ultimately led to his dismissal and given an opportunity to improve his performance,” Hamberger said in his judgment.

“He did not avail himself of that opportunity.”

Andrew Douglas, principal at law firm Macpherson & Kelley, told SmartCompany businesses need to ensure their performance management is well-documented so they can mitigate legal risk and ensure employees know what is expected of them.

“With employees who are in their qualifying period, sometimes called their probationary period of six months, it is essential they are performance-managed from day one and where there are issues requiring management, they are immediately addressed,” Douglas says.

“There are two reasons for that. The termination of such an employee would avoid the unfair dismissal regime if done correctly. Secondly… it’s a huge cost to business [to retain an underperforming employee].”

SmartCompany contacted Your Discount Chemist but did not receive a response prior to publication.

SmartCompany was unable to contact to contact Khattak for comment. 

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Broede Carmody

Broede Carmody is a former senior SmartCompany reporter. Previously, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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