Dismissal by Text ‘Repugnant’ and Changes to Unfair Dismissal Threshold

2 July 2019

In February 2019, AFS Security 24/7 Pty Ltd dismissed one of its employees, a casual security guard, with a text message after two years of regular, rostered work.

The text read ‘Effective immediately we no longer require your services.’ The security guard asked for an explanation by reply text and phone, but received no response. He drove to the employer’s premises and, confronted by the director’s wife, was told he was owed no explanation as a casual employee.

In the Fair Work Commission, Commissioner Ian Cambridge has lauded the act of dismissal by text, as ‘unnecessarily callous,’ holding that notification of dismissal ‘should not be made by text message or any other electronic communication.’

The Employer submitted that text was how it ordinarily communicated with its staff, and claimed its level of informality was a ‘generational thing.’

However, the Commissioner condemned the communication approach taken by the employer, stating they acted ‘with a perfunctory disregard for basic human dignity,’ and referred to the text dismissal as a ‘repugnant process.’

The Commissioner ordered that the security guard be paid $12,465 in compensation.

Implications for Employers

Employers should not rely on informal text or electronic communication methods to impart serious workplace decisions that impact their employees.

Where a workplace decision impacts their employees, employers need to be mindful of communicating the decision in a respectful manner and arranging an in person meeting to communicate such important decisions.

The full decision can be read here.

Changes to unfair dismissal threshold

In other news, from 1 July 2019, the high income threshold for access to unfair dismissal has increased to $148,700 and the compensation cap to $74,350. National system employees that earn over $148,700 who are not covered by a modern award or an enterprise agreement have no access to unfair dismissal.

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