The Fair Work Commission has supported a decision by Parmalat, a national dairy company, to sack one of its workers for being overweight. The worker was a forklift operator and his weight exceeded the maximum safety rating for the forklift he was required to operate.

The Employer, Parmalat, demonstrated that they were acting in the best interests of the worker. Allowing the worker to continue operating the forklift would have exposed the worker to potential injury. Parmalat made this decision based on expert technical advice.

Parmalat had offered the worker opportunity to remedy the decision and had in fact kept his position open for a number of months. They consulted with him, over an extended period, in relation to their decision.

Some key lessons to take away from this case:

  • Employers should always be acting in the best interests of their workers;
  • Decisions should be based on the best possible advice;
  • Consultation is a key aspect of any decision making

Additionally Employers should consider having procedures in place that facilitate effective and consistent decision making. This should include providing employees with information that supports WHS decision making.

As an Employer, consider:

  • Do you have a fitness for work policy and/or procedure?
  • Do your Employees understand their obligations in relation to fitness for work?
  • Are there any particular roles within your business where specific fitness for work issues apply?