Human Resources Managers – Should They Work In Dual Roles?

A recent unfair dismissal claim has raised an interesting question of whether a Human Resources Manager (HR Manager) can successfully work in on a dual role basis.

On Monday 12 December 2022, Commissioner Sarah McKinnon handed down a decision in the case of Mr Luke Sadler v Client Care First Pty Ltd T/A Client Care First [2022] FWC 3179which was merely an application for an unfair dismissal remedy. The Applicant, Mr Sadler, was dismissed, effective immediately, for misconduct. There were a series of events which lead to the Applicant’s dismissal including using course language to the Human Resources Manager, something that the Respondent deemed to be “unwarranted, inappropriate, inconsistent” with the Respondent’s Code of Conduct.

Commissioner McKinnon dismissed the case on the basis “the nature of Mr Sadler’s conduct toward Ms Martin, his lack of acknowledgment and/or remorse, and because by the time of his dismissal, Mr Sadler had already found another, better paying, job”. However, in arriving at her finding, Commissioner McKinnon made several interesting comments regarding the Respondent’s HR manager working dual roles for the Respondent.

Should a HR Manager be employed on a dual role basis?

The most important and primary role of a HR Manager is to help their workplace improve and meet the needs of all employees within the business. This helps employees understand how their role within the business aligns with the purpose of it.

Having a HR Manager employed on a dual-role basis does not allow the employee employed in that position to perform their role effectively and to the highest standard. Commissioner McKinnon stated it was “surprising that its [the Respondent] Human Resources Manager is working in the role on a ‘dual role’ basis, while also juggling his function as a registered nurse and learning on the job.” Commissioner McKinnon went on to state that this very point highlighted the fact that the dismissal of the Applicant was a “peremptory approach to [the worker’s] dismissal”.

Further, having an employee employed, in this instance, as a registered full-time nurse and as a HR Manager, meant that employee did not have adequate knowledge of dealing with the duties of a HR Manager, and did not sufficiently know the law surrounding termination of employees.

As emphasised in Mr Luke Sadler v Client Care First Pty Ltd T/A Client Care First, a HR Department is in charge of ensuring all employees are kept safe, healthy and satisfied at work, including having the responsibility of ensuring all policies and procedures are kept up to date with necessary protective measures and implementation of those protective measures, it is a role which should not be performed in a dual-role basis.

An effective HR Manager knows their workplace, the expectations of employees and when termination of employment is considered to be reasonable. Ultimately, where a HR Manager is working on a dual role basis there is a heightened risk of making decisions without having the knowledge a HR Manager would be expected to have.

This article was prepared with the assistance of Ebony Billett*


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