A council truck driver claims the City of Ballarat sacked him for taking a sick day to have a COVID-19 test.
However, the council denies the claim, arguing it dismissed the worker for performance issues.
Council truck driver sacked for taking sick day
Peter Marrell worked for the City of Ballarat for 14 months as a casual labourer and truck driver.
He claims the council sacked him after he told his boss he was being tested for COVID-19 after waking up with a runny nose.
Marrell said his boss responded with a “grunt”.
A few hours later, he received a phone call informing him the council had terminated his employment.
Marrell says the council denied it sacked him for taking a sick day.
“I said, ‘Is it because I’ve called in sick?’ They said, ‘No, it’s because we’re downsizing and putting aquatic people in your position’.”
General protections involving dismissal
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Dismissals ‘R’ Us says it’s unlawful to sack someone for taking sick leave.
“Dismissing someone for taking a temporary absence from work due to illness is not just an unfair dismissal,” he said.
“It is an unlawful dismissal and a breach of a person’s basic workplace rights, also known as their general protections.
“When this happens, the worker can make a general protections claim involving dismissal, which usually results in higher compensation payouts compared to an ordinary unfair dismissal claim.
“Additionally, a court can impose uncapped penalties on the employer.”
Despite initially telling Marrell he’d been sacked because of downsizing, the City of Ballarat subsequently changed its story.
It suggested the dismissal had been the result of issues with his performance.
“As a result of his poor work performance and poor attendance, Mr Marrell was advised he would not be receiving any further shifts as a casual in the street cleaning team.”
The City of Ballarat said it had two different conversations with a recruitment company about his poor performance and held a meeting with Marrell on 8 August.
However, Marrell disputes this, denying any meetings about his performance ever took place.
The council confirmed it “actively encourages its staff to have COVID-19 tests if they show any signs of the illness”.
Marrell said he’s been tested for coronavirus three times since the pandemic began.
As a causal worker, he is not entitled to sick leave, unless he applies for the special pandemic payment.
The Victorian government pays $300 to eligible workers who must wait for test results.
It also offers $1,500 for eligible workers forced to self-isolate for 14-days.
Marrell says he did not apply for either payment.
“I was doing it for the safety of my workers and myself.
“I think they suspected I was trying to have time off, but I don’t get paid for these tests.
“So, I lost money because I have to have so much time off for it.”
“CAN I BE SACKED FOR CONTRACTING CORONAVIRUS AND GETTING SICK?”
Contact our team at Dismissals ‘R’ Us on
To connect with us, please follow us on