Employers may sometimes believe that dismissing an employee by phone or email is an easier or non-confrontational way to communicate the dismissal, however this should be avoided.
The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has provided clear warnings to businesses which terminate employees by way of an email, text or phone call. Even if you have a valid reason to terminate an employee, this needs to be done by way of a face to face meeting, otherwise the termination will be deemed unfair.
In a recent decision, the FWC stated “even in circumstances where email or electronic communications are ordinarily used, the advice of termination of employment is a matter of such significance that basic human dignity requires that dismissal be conveyed personally with arrangements for the presence of a support person and documentary confirmation”.*
In this case the employer was ordered to pay 17 weeks compensation totalling $22,880 to an employee who was dismissed by email after she refused a minor roster change which clashed with her pre-paid Pilates classes. The outcome would likely have been drastically different had the employee followed a proper termination process which included a face to face meeting.
There are exceptions to this rule, including if there is a genuine apprehension of physical violence or a geographical impediment which means that the employee cannot be present for a meeting, however employers should always exercise caution with dismissals.
For further advice please call MGA TMA’s legal and HR team on 1800 888 479 option 1.
*Case reference: Nichole Knutson v Chesson Pty Ltd T/A Pay Per Click  FWC 2080 (1 May 2018)