Heather du Plessis-Allan: Vodafone's lockdown warning is out of line

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Tue, 20 Apr 2021, 4:30PM

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Vodafone's lockdown warning is out of line

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Tue, 20 Apr 2021, 4:30PM

Vodafone bosses are way out of line with their threat to fire staff if they get caught in a lockdown in Australia. 

These guys clearly hadn’t intended for this internal memo to go public, but it has, and what it warns is that if employees take leave to go to Australia but then end up stuck there for an extended period beyond their approved leave dates "their employment may be terminated”.

Come on - you can’t reasonably fire someone because of circumstances out of their control like this.

The logical conclusion of this approach is that no Vodafone employee can go skiing at the weekend in case they break their leg and have to take a month off work. Or no Vodafone employee can play indoor netball after hours in case they get concussed and, again, have to again take time off.

I mean, at some point the employer’s control over the employee after hours has be reasonable.

These people, like many of us, may have family over the ditch who they want to see and it unreasonable to expect them not to go see their family at the risk of their losing their jobs.

If it was the case that Covid was a short term disruption to our lives, and we just needed to hang on a little bit more for a return to normality, then maybe Vodafone’s positon would be reasonable.

But this is going to carry on, with borders opening and shutting, potentially for years. And you cannot expect staff members not to visit family in Australia for potentially years. 

Vodafone realises it’s stuffed it up.  They’ve put out a press release admitting they “didn’t get the messaging right “, but not changing their position.

There is obviously a middle ground here.  There is no doubt increased risk with travel to Australia, so it is reasonable for an employer to expect their employees to keep them informed if they’re heading over the ditch on personal leave 

And it is reasonable that if an employee does get trapped there for months, that an employer would be able to end the employment 

So employers absolutely need a policy around this, and probably need to be clearer with their staff than the vague threat issued by Vodafone  

Fair concern from the telco, heavy handed response though. Good luck testing that in court, Vodafone.