Working from home on mandatory office days ‘doesn’t justify the sack’

On August 30, Mr Moro updated his work calendar to say he was working from home and cited a tradesperson coming to fix his dishwasher who had given notice only the previous evening.

“Sorry Tom, I’m calling BS on this,” Mr Bolluk texted him when he found out. “This is not good enough – you are supposed to give us a heads up WAY in advance as opposed to having me chase you like this.”

The next day Mr Bolluk allegedly told Mr Moro, “You clearly don’t want to come into the office. It is best to part ways.”

He was sacked the next day with two weeks’ pay in lieu of notice.

Mr Moro alleged unfair dismissal, pointing out he was the highest sales performer in the business and had received no prior warnings.

Mr Bolluk told the commission that he and HR had reached a mutual understanding that Mr Moro’s “commitment to the role was lacking, leading to a decision to proceed with termination”.

While the firm later sought to claim it had also fired Mr Moro for performance reasons, commissioner Donna McKenna said this was “embroidery” to the only reason for dismissal of not attending the office.

She said there was nothing to indicate that the reasons Mr Moro gave the company for not attending the office were false.

“I am not satisfied that the applicant’s conduct in not attending the office and, instead, working from home on August 30, 2023 constituted a valid reason for dismissal,” she said.

“This is so even considering that it is a matter of common ground that in-office attendance days had been broached by Mr Bolluk in January or February 2023 over coffee with the applicant as part of a broader, informal work-related conversation.”

The commission heard that earlier that month Mr Moro had flagged he was planning to resign to travel but quickly reversed his position, advising he was “committed to driving results for the business”.

Commissioner McKenna considered that this intention to resign “cast a pall over the relationship as to what might have been considered as the applicant’s longer-term commitment to the business.

“I also consider that the irritant of the applicant’s unilateral advice that he would again be working from home on August 30, 2023, being an in-office day, was the trigger for the dismissal against the backdrop of the previous exchanges about resignation and/or Mr Bolluk’s understanding that the employment relationship was, in any event, going to conclude by resignation at some point into the future.”

She held the dismissal was predetermined, harsh, unfair and unreasonable, and ordered Insider to pay Mr Moro three months’ compensation at the rate of $2208 a week, including bonuses, or $26,496 in total.

Last year, the Fair Work Commission recognised the productivity costs of working from home in backing an employer’s rejection of an employee’s request to work exclusively from home.

However, in a separate case, the commission found a lawyer who frequently worked from home without permission was unfairly dismissed for wasting time surfing the internet.

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