Cash-handling deficiencies enough to warrant dismissal

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Cash-handling deficiencies enough to warrant dismissal

Source: Australian Business Ltd The AIRC has found an employer had no need to prove a dismissed employee actually stole cash receipts when it was clear that his basic cash management was inadequate.

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Source: Australian Business Ltd

 


The AIRC has found an employer had no need to prove a dismissed employee actually stole cash receipts when it was clear that his basic cash management was inadequate. The State Rail Authority of NSW dismissed an employee after its investigations found almost $2,000 had gone missing from his travel centre. The employee argued that police charges against him were dismissed by the District Court, but the AIRC agreed with the SRA that he 'fell foul of basic cash handling disciplines including storing cash securely and putting each day's takings in the safe'. The AIRC concluded that these were 'basic principles which an employee in [the employee's] position can be reasonably expected to understand and follow' and a breach of these was a valid reason for dismissal.

Background

The State Rail Authority of New South Wales dismissed the employee in January, 1995. He lodged a claim of unfair dismissal at the end of August, 2000, and sought reinstatement and payment of lost remuneration. Despite being lodged out of time, the AIRC found in October 2000 that it would be unfair not to accept the application.

In January 1994 the employee became acting manager of the SRA's Hurstville Travel Centre. The AIRC heard that he very quickly got into difficulties balancing his daily accounts. He also fell behind in depositing cash into a safe for weekly collection by Brambles Security. This came to the SRA's attention in April 1994. A visit by the assistant revenue accountant found two deposits totalling almost $2,000 had not been deposited in the safe. The employee later found them in his drawer. The day after this visit the employee failed to put the day's takings, totalling about $2,200 into the safe. 

The SRA informed the employee that it would investigate 'shortfalls of cash' during his period as acting manager. During the investigation he worked in the Central Reservations Centre. An investigation report filed in June 1994 concluded the total cash deficiency at Hurstville for the period totalled $19,480. In October 1994, the NSW Police charged the employee with 11 counts of larceny as a servant. (In September 1999, three charges were heard by the District Court which delivered a verdict of 'not guilty on all counts'.)

In November 1994 the SRA gave the employee seven days to respond to eight alleged breaches of the SRA's Code of Conduct or Accounting Instruction Guidelines and told him his explanation would be fully considered before a decision about any possible corrective action. His solicitor responded that he could not comment as the matter was before court. In December, 1994, the SRA sent him a letter of dismissal.

Findings

The employee argued that the District Court found he had done nothing wrong. He submitted that a new computer software system created problems which contributed to his difficulties in balancing his books at Hurstville. He got behind in his accounts, but submitted that he put the cash received in the safe. He was not able to explain how it disappeared. The SRA argued that there were two categories of conduct which provided valid reason for the employee's termination: firstly, breaches of the proper accounting procedures, and secondly, the missing amount of $19,480 and the removal of two cash sums. It argued it was not necessary to find that the employee stole the money.

The AIRC agreed that the employee's conduct in breaching reasonable requirements for handling cash was a valid reason for dismissal. '[The employee's] employment was not terminated for inability to follow impractical or complex or technical guidelines,' the AIRC said. 'He fell foul of basic cash handling disciplines including storing cash securely and putting each day's takings in the safe … They are basic principles which an employee in [the employee's] position can be reasonably expected to understand and follow.' It concluded that, in the circumstances, it was 'unacceptable to store money in unsecured locations and to remove money from the premises without notification'.

While the employee claimed he was inadequately trained and that he was never warned about his conduct, the AIRC concluded 'neither training nor warning was necessary for a mature adult employee to know that it was wrong to retain undisclosed a large amount of the employer's cash receipts'.

The commission concluded the employee's dismissal was not harsh or unreasonable and dismissed his application.

See: Robert Davies v State Rail Authority of NSW, PR914748, (March 8, 2002).


 

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