Be careful what you say and do – trouble in refusing Carers’ Leave

September, 2014

An employer has been ordered to pay a fine of $10,000 to the Transport Workers’ Union of Australia and a sum of $10,000 to a former employee, after being found to have contravened two workplace rights under the Fair Work Act.

In the matter of Transport Workers’ Union of Australia v Atkins [2014] FCCA 1533,  it was found that the employer:

  1. Terminated the employment of an employee after denying him carers’ leave; and
  2. Verbally abused and threatened to harm the employee and his family.

The Federal Circuit Court found that the employer’s conduct was “blatant and disgraceful” and that his actions could not be “excused by ignorance”.

The Union claimed that the employee suffered non-economic loss as a result of such matters as:

The Court used its wider powers to make an order for non economic loss and took into account mitigating factors, such as the employer’s apology; his acknowledgment that the actions resulted in the employee requiring psychological treatment and his undertaking not to vilify the employee further.


 Although the circumstances of this case are somewhat extreme, employers need to be mindful about how they should respond to a request for leave or flexible working arrangements, particularly in the context of employees seeking to care for their families.

Having sound policies in place in dealing with requests is a good start to ensuring that matters are dealt with appropriately.

Contact Mills Oakley

For more information, please contact:

Ross Levin | Partner
T: +61 3 9605 0070

Malcolm Davis | Partner
T: +61 2 8035 7932

Adam Lunn | Partner
T: +61 3 9605 0868

Lisa Anaf | Partner
T: +61 3 9605 0857

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