9 August 2016 posted by Recovery Partners

The Fair Work Commission recently found that the dismissal of a Sydney bus driver for using his mobile phone while driving was unfair because of the employer’s unclear safety policy.

The Background

In November 2015, a bus driver employed by Hillsbus Co was dismissed for creating a serious safety risk by using a mobile phone while driving. The employee claimed unfair dismissal because he was not speaking on the mobile phone but was using it to play music. In fact, the phone did not have a SIM card installed and the employee did not consider himself to be using a phone. The phone was on the dashboard and the driver admitted to tapping the phone and looking at it a few times during the journey.

The finding

Senior Deputy President Lea Drake found that a mobile phone without a SIM card was covered by regulation 300 of the Road Rules 2014 (NSW). The regulation states that a driver must not use a mobile phone while the vehicle is moving or not parked unless it is secured in a mounting device.


Senior Deputy President Drake found that the dismissal was harsh because the employee genuinely believed that he had converted the phone into a music broadcasting device. Hillsbus was ordered to reinstate the employee. Both parties were advised to agree on compensation, or if no agreement could be made, Fair Work Australia would review submissions from both parties.

Hillsbus had amended its mobile phone policy to prohibit the use of mobile phones or similar devices “for any function or purpose” while driving. Still, this revised policy was never provided to the driver and he was unaware of the change.

Keeping policy clear

This case demonstrates the need to keep workplace safety policy clear and ensure that employees are notified of policy changes as they occur. If you need advice on workplace safety or preparing a safety policy, please don’t hesitate to contact us.


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Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/