In a recent case before the Fair Work Commission (FWC), a finance manager was terminated from Agripower Australia Ltd, a company specializing in mining and exporting diatomaceous earth. The manager, Raju Narendranathan Vetiyatil, was dismissed following a disagreement over payroll reporting to the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).
Vetiyatil’s role included overseeing Agripower’s payroll. His termination, effective July 7, 2023, was a result of his refusal to alter ATO records, which the company claimed were misleading and had negatively impacted its employees’ social security benefits.
Agripower, facing cash flow problems in 2023, had a period where it couldn’t disburse wages to its staff, including Vetiyatil. However, the payroll was still processed, and Vetiyatil reported these wages to the ATO as per his understanding of the guidelines. This reporting led to complications for employees receiving Centrelink benefits, as the information affected their benefits adjustments.
Following an email exchange where Vetiyatil was asked to correct the ATO records, his refusal led to his dismissal by the company’s founder, Peter Prentice. Vetiyatil maintained that his reporting was accurate and in compliance with legal requirements. He filed for unfair dismissal on July 26, 2023.
Prentice, in the termination letter, accused Vetiyatil of recklessly providing false information to the ATO. Vetiyatil defended his actions, highlighting a lack of accounting knowledge within the company and asserting his compliance with legal and professional standards.
The FWC found no evidence of malicious intent or knowledge of falsehood in Vetiyatil’s reporting. The commission criticized Agripower for not giving Vetiyatil a chance to address their concerns and for not consulting taxation advisors. The FWC concluded that Vetiyatil was unfairly dismissed and ordered compensation for him.