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You can’t even fire a Paranoid Schizophrenic who disturbs the workplace!.

Article by WealthSafe.

Date Published: 19 Feb 2023

You can’t even fire a Paranoid Schizophrenic who disturbs the workpalce!When hiring staff in Australia, you just don’t win. It’s why I’m so big on outsourcing.

Here’s my new favourite: the paranoid schizophrenic who you can’t fire even when they are causing disturbances in the office.

A business sacked someone after seeing a report from their psychiatrist diagnosing them with paranoid schizophrenia.

Understandable you’d think. But the Fair Work Commission didn’t agree.

As I’ve said, it is very easy for someone in hindsight to scrutinize and pick apart what you say.

The Commission said the boss misinterpreted what the psychiatrist said.

The report said the staff member wasn’t fit for work right now but may be in the future. The Commission said they should have taken that into account.

And here’s the cruncher:  despite evidence of some weird emails, the Commission said:

“It appears to me that the existence of “weird” and “disturbing” emails and even emails falsely representing what occurred together with other interpersonal communications initiated by the Applicant does not provide a valid reason for dismissal … It would appear to be indefensible to dismiss an employee who has a mental disorder for conduct which occurred when the employee was unaware that he had a mental disorder and for which he had not yet received any treatment.”

So it’s now official.

If someone’s insane, but may “come good” one day, you must keep employing them while they go through their treatment.

The case did say a boss can request a psychiatric evaluation. But if the psychiatrist says that it is treatable, it is up to the boss to be “charitable” and keep their job while they’re being treated.

So if an employee is willing to get help you can’t fire them.

Some would say that’s good. However, for me, this raises the obvious question of how far should a business owner have to go. They take all the risk. They have high compliance and tax obligations.

So where is the balance between running a business and having employees to do a quality job (at a high labour cost) and having a social conscience as a business owner?

Food for thought … personally I think it has gone way too far. I’d be interested in some comments on this post as to what you think.

Finally, the case shows how important it is to:

1. Protect not only your personal assets, but protect your business and separate risk using employee trusts or service trusts

2. Look at alternative options, such as outsourcing your labour costs to avoid the compliance obligations and the increasingly insane Australian labour laws

We have done this in our business and for our clients.

Once again, I’d love to hear your comments on this post.

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