Celeste Ryan-Dengate v Sunraysia & Murray Group Training Ltd [2017] FWC 2086 (U2016/14308). Gooley, DP. 13 April 2017

In this matter, the DP has taken a zero tolerance to timesheet tampering. The DP made it abundantly clear that the onus lies with the employee to complete the timesheet honestly. Further noting that “fraud” was not required to be proven, and any such matter was worthy of summary dismissal. The punishment, well and truly, fitting the crime.

In summary, this was the theft of paid time; and (I believe) that this decision should sound a warning to employees who take from their employer things of which they are not entitled – whether it be “time” or material items.

The Applicant in this matter, Ms Celeste Ryan-Dengate was employed by Sunraysia & Murray Group Training Ltd (“SMGT”) on a traineeship from 21 March 2016 until her employment was terminated on 9 November 2016. She was undertaking a Certificate 3 in Business Administration. The “practical” work was provided by Regional Building Consultants however at all times she was an employee of SMGT.

SMGT was granted permission to be represented by a paid agent (mainly) due to it having no dedicated HR. The Applicant was represented by her father.

There were a number of timesheet “irregularities”, including the claiming of time worked when on leave and the alteration of timesheets after they had been signed.

The Applicant acknowledged the discrepancies, but said they were “honest mistakes”, contending that no fraud was intended.

The DP noted that the Applicant had proven that she knew how to complete a timesheet having done so on numerous occasions, including the correct manner in which to claim leave, stating:

In the absence of any reasonable explanation of how or why this occurred I am satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, she did not do this by mistake. [my emphasis].

Confirming:

By altering her time sheets after they were signed and by claiming hours worked when she was ill, Ms Ryan-Dengate did not comply with her obligations as an employee.

In placing the entire onus of timesheet accuracy on the Applicant the DP added:

I do not accept that the punishment did not fit the crime. An employer is entitled to expect employees to accurately complete time sheets. To not do so results in payments being made that are not owed. While the amount overpaid was not quantified it was not disputed that Ms Ryan-Dengate was paid for work not performed.

Nor do I accept that it was the failure of SMTG to review the time sheets that enabled this to occur.

It was submitted that the dismissal was harsh because it was a summary dismissal. I do not agree. Given I have not accepted that this was an honest mistake I do not consider that the summary nature of the dismissal means that the termination was harsh”.

 

Greg Reiffel Industrial Relations & Human Resources Consulting has been providing the following services to businesses for over 30 years:

 

  • General HR and IR advisory service.
  • Fair Work Commission representation (eg unfair dismissals, adverse actions, etc.).
  • Workplace investigations and mediations.
  • Policies and procedures.
  • Discipline & Termination.
  • People Audits (are you at risk of prosecution?).
  • Enterprise Agreements, Contracts of Employment, Individual Flexibility Agreements.
  • On-site HR services.

Contact Greg on 0438 906 050 or mailto: greg@gregreiffelconsulting.com.au.