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Communicating Dismissals to your employees

It is no surprise that emails, text messages and other communication apps are prevalent in most workplaces. Recent decisions of the Fair Work Commission have found that when it comes to communicating a dismissal with an employee, it is best practice to do so in person rather than by email or any other method of communication.

In Knutson v Chesson Pty Ltd [2018] FWC 2080, Commissioner Cambridge commented that the advice of termination of employment is a matter of such significance that basic human dignity requires the dismissal be conveyed personally with arrangements for the presence of a support person and documentary confirmation. He noted that unless there is some genuine apprehension of physical violence or geographical impediment, the message of dismissal should always be conveyed face to face.

In Cachia v Scobel Pty Ltd [2018] FWC 2648 Deputy President Sams commented that while there is no express requirement for dismissals to be communicated in person in the Fair Work Act 2009 (“FWA”), informing an employee of their dismissal by phone, text or email is not an appropriate means of conveying a decision which has such serious ramifications for an employee unless the employer believes that there might be a threat to safety or if the employee has expressly indicated that they did not want a ‘face to face’ meeting to hear the outcome of a disciplinary process.

Therefore, while it is not a strict requirement of the FWA that dismissals be communicated in person, employers should be aware that if they communicate dismissals by email, text message or other electronic methods of communication, a dismissal which may otherwise be considered fair and valid, may be subject to criticism and scrutiny.

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