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Mental Health Case summary: reasonable lawful direction

By Beatrice Thomas

A BHP worker was absent from work for a period of eight months following a shoulder injury.

A medical certificate was provided to the employer stating the employee was fit to return to his duties on 1 April. This conflicted with another medical certificate that stated the employee was fit to return on 30 May.

The employee was requested to attend a fitness for work assessment. He was informed failure to comply may result in disciplinary action. He missed the doctor’s appointment and upon returning to work was denied entry.

An investigation was conducted and he was invited to a meeting, given a show cause letter and asked to provide a response or any mitigating circumstances. He did not provide any suitable response; and consequently, his employment was terminated

The original Commissioner found in the circumstances of the employee’s sudden return to work, with insufficient and generic medical information, the employer was entitled to discharge its safety obligation as a coal mine operator, in requiring the further medical information.

In summary the Commissioner found in relation to the employee’s failure to follow the lawful and reasonable directions – specifically the failure to attend the medical assessments and his refusal to participate in the disciplinary investigation formed a valid reason for dismissal.

The employee appealed to the Full Bench, which upheld the original decision. The employee’s subsequent appeal to the Federal Court resulted in the decisions of the FWC being upheld.

[Grant v BHP Coal Pty Ltd [2015] FCA 1374 (4 December 2015)]

A BHP worker was absent from work for a period of eight months following a shoulder injury.

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