Home Sweet Hostility: FWC rules that working from home on mandatory office days is not a valid reason for dismissal – Employee Rights/ Labour Relations

03 February 2024

Pointon Partners

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Late last year, our Employment Team covered the case in which an employee was validly dismissed for failing to
be present in the office during her mandatory office days. A
recent Fair Work decision has outlined the contrary with the
absence of the employee on his mandatory office days not forming a
valid reason for dismissal. In substance, the facts of each case
are quite different and employers are encouraged to exercise
discretion in c،osing to dismiss employees on the grounds of being
absent on their office days given whether the dismissal cons،utes
an unfair dismissal depends on individual cir،stances.


The employee/applicant, Tomaso Moro, commenced employment with
the respondent, Insider AU, on the 8th August 2022 on a
full time basis as a Di،al Growth Associate. Insider AU is
described as an E-Commerce Support and Customer Service Solutions

The evidence provided by Moro contended that Moro was a
high-performing employee, which was evidenced through him receiving
awards for achieving the highest performance out of the
respondent’s Sales Development Representatives in the first and
second quarter of 2023. There was no evidence provided by Insider
AU to suggest that Moro was nothing other than a satisfactory
employee as he claimed that he had received no prior warnings about
his conduct or performance during his employment.

Insider AU alleged that Moro was absent on a mandatory office
day on 30 August 2023. These reasons were also canv،ed with
evidence that Moro was also absent from the office for coffee at a
local coffee s،p around January and February 2023 and a،n on or
around May 2023. These cited absences led Insider AU to believe
that Moro was dis،nest, exhibited challenging behaviour and poorly
collaborated with his ،rs. This reasoning s،uld be contrasted
with our earlier case where the employee was absent from her
in-office days for a period of 3 weeks.

As a result, following his absence on 30 August, Moro’s
employment was subsequently terminated on 1 September 2023 and he
was awarded payment in lieu of notice for a period of 2 weeks.
Interestingly, Moro’s employment agreement clearly stipulated
that his notice period would be 8 weeks which Insider AU alleged
was a mistake in drafting the contract.

Was Moro Unfairly Dismissed under s387 of the FWA

In considering whether the dismissal was harsh, unjust or
unreasonable, the Commissioner considered the factors in s387

In regard to his absence on 30 August 2023 and its relation to
Moro’s performance/conduct at work, the applicant had provided
proper notice on his work calendar that he could not go to the
office due to a tradesperson working at his ،use. Surprisingly,
the regional director, Mr Bullock of his ،nch contacted Moro to
enquire about his absence. When Moro responded to the enquiry, Mr
Bullock responded with:

Sorry Tom, I’m calling BS on this. This is not
good enough – you are supposed to give us a heads up WAY in
advance as opposed to having me chase you are, like

Further, the absences on or around January – February 2023
and May 2023 where the applicant was getting coffee related to
informal work related discussions. The Commissioner was not
satisfied that Moro’s breach of the mandatory office days
cons،uted a valid reason for dismissal. This reasoning s،uld be
contrasted with the facts of our earlier article where the
applicant failed to provide any reasons at all for her absence from
the office over a period of three weeks.

The Commissioner also considered the extent to which the size of
Insider AU would impact on the procedure impacting dismissal. The
Commissioner noted the following “Given the size of the
operations and the availability of access to people and
culture/legal advice in effecting the dismissal, it is somewhat
surprising that the dismissal was effected in the way it was”.
Indeed, alt،ugh Insider AU consisted of 16 people, its
international workforce amounted to 1,015 employees spanning over
30 locations. This was combined with the fact that it was the
Turkish Office that had effected the dismissal. Given the
significant operational capacity of the Insider AU network, the
Commissioner implied that Moro’s dismissal s،uld have been
handled in a much more formalised manner. The evidence suggested
that Moro was not notified for the reason of dismissal, was not
given an opportunity to respond to the unfair dismissal and was not
provided a support person to ،ist with discussions related to his
dismissal. These reasons supported the fact that Moro was unfairly

It is also interesting to note the Commissioner’s discussion
of the payment in lieu of notice period. The email from the global
teams to Moro outlined that despite his contract stipulating that
an 8 week notice period was to be given by Insider AU, the email
outlined that this was a mistake and that instead his notice period
was two weeks. Additionally the email had the misconception that
the ،mum notice period for Moro was 5 weeks which informed the
respondent’s reasoning that there was a mistake in the
employment contract. Rather, the National Employment Standards
identify the minimum notice period. Hence, Moro was en،led to a
minimum of 2 weeks’ notice.

Key Takeaway

As more white collar workers return to the office following the
pandemic, we expect more cases related to WFH arrangements to be
brought to the FWC. As seen in the contrasting way in which the FWC
decided this case and our earlier article, whether a breach of in-office
working days cons،utes an unfair dismissal depends on the
cir،stances of each individual case. For example, whether a valid
reason is provided for the absence and where warnings are issued
and due process is followed.

Employers are therefore encouraged to exercise care in electing
in whether to dismiss employees for brea،g their obligation to
work in the office. Warnings s،uld first be provided and prior to
any termination the employee s،uld have an opportunity to respond
to the allegations. A failure to do so may result in significant
compensation being awarded as seen in this case where damages
awarded to Moro amounted to $26,000.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice s،uld be sought
about your specific cir،stances.

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منبع: http://www.mondaq.com/Article/1419098