Protecting your entitlements Part 1: We stop Wingecarribee removing a "condition of employment" car from a member

Maybe people were tired and emotional or it could have been the time of year but it seems we will never know. Someone at Wingecarribee Shire thought it made good sense to give 12 months notice to remove a leaseback car from a member just before the end of the year but when we wrote to challenge the decision those responsible scurried for cover like cockroaches under the fridge when the kitchen light goes on.

One of the great improvements in the 2010 Local Government (State) Award was a provision that if an employee had a leaseback car as a condition of their employment, then they had it forever or until such time as they chose to hand it back. This replaced the standard 12 months notice provision for everyone and separated cars into conditions of employment cars and cars provided for other purposes.

Clause 15 of the State Award provides this protection and even provides examples to assist management work out what all this means - specifically, if the car was offered "as an incentive to attract and/or retain the employee" and "the period the employee has access to the vehicle”. This new clause means that virtually all of our members will have cars as a condition of employment and the longer you have a car, the more entrenched that entitlement becomes.

But someone thought that if they told the member that he didn't have the car as a condition of employment then he could be bluffed and would accept the 12 months notice.

Employees are entitled to expect that they won't be misled or bluffed at a meeting with HR and management of their own Division and told that they don't have it as a condition - particularly when in this case:

  • A "Private Lease Back Vehicle" was identified in the ad for the position as something that the Council would "provide you with" if successful.
     
  • The letter of offer required the employee to sign a document acknowledging "you have read and accept these conditions of employment" and one of the attachments was the Vehicle Policy Agreement. He did.
     
  • He was also asked to sign a document headed AGREED TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT and establishing that the vehicle would be provided and he signed that too.
     
  • The subsequent leaseback agreement made after he commenced employment made reference to his entitlement.
     
  • The entitlement was supported by aspects of the General Manager’s Internal Practice Note on the process to be followed to remove the car and this process had not been followed.
     
  • There was also reference in the Practice Note that "Council recognises that its Private Use Car Scheme constitutes one essential element of its salary and remuneration structures and reflects a general policy which is designed to attract and effectively recruit and maintain the best available personnel…"

But despite all this, apparently HR and management within the Division believe the employee did not have it as a condition of employment. They now recognise that he does. Life is a learning curve at Wingecarribee.

This would have been the first Council to test whether an employee did have a car as a condition of employment. Clearly a wiser head than those involved originally in the attempt to bluff the member has prevailed.

Learn from this. Even though there is strong protection in the Award, sometimes people will try to bluff you. Always seek advice before you agree to anything.

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