Once an employee cannot do the core duties of the position they were originally hired for, their employer is not obliged to find them ‘something else to do’. This principle has been reinforced by two recent Fair Work Commission decisions involving very long serving employees.
The Commission was faced with unfair dismissal claims on behalf of two train drivers, and the basis of the decision in each case was the employees were unable to do their driving duties so their employer was entitled to terminate their employment. Both employees argued their long service entitled them to special consideration, that their employers should find some other work for them, redeploy them to other duties.
In both cases the FWC indicated that to follow that line would place a heavy onus on employers especially as in both cases, the employer was faced with medical evidence that the employee could never resume their substantive duties.
Obviously if an employee can do some other available duties in a workplace in such a situation then agreement might be reached, however there is no requirement for that to occur.
These cases highlight the important point that there is no requirement, statutory or otherwise, for an employer to find some other kind of work for an employee in situations such as these. While their long service was a contributing factor to sympathy for their cases, FWC in both cases said that the employees were engaged to do quite specific jobs with a specific skills set and once they has demonstrated they could no longer perform those duties, the employer was perfectly entitled to terminate the employment.