Two hospital cleaners sacked for taking a nap during an unpaid break have lodged unfair dismissal claims.
The women want their jobs back because they are their only means of survival in Australia.
Hospital cleaners support families
Tshering and Sonam are from Bhutan and support their husbands and children.
They fell asleep in the waiting area of the day surgery section at Canberra Hospital at 4am.
They were on a designated unpaid break at the time.
However, their employer – ISS – labelled the sleeping a “serious breach” of the company’s code of conduct.
Despite both women writing to ISS apologising for falling asleep and begging to keep their jobs, the company fired them.
What the hospital says
Canberra Health Services has refused to get involved in the matter.
It refused to answer questions from Fairfax about the sackings, instead referring questions to ISS.
Additionally, the hospital did not confirm if it had spoken to ISS, and did not confirm if it had independently investigated the incident.
A spokeswoman did, however, confirm Canberra Hospital allows employees to take naps on their breaks.
What the union says
The women want their jobs back, or to be given financial compensation.
United Voice ACT branch secretary Lyndal Ryan told Fairfax she is surprised at the hard line approach of the contractor.
She said she looked forward to the hearing so ISS can be held accountable for its actions.
“Let’s have it and see if the Commissioner thinks it’s OK to sleep on your break.
“If the Commissioner thinks you can’t, that will be interesting news to every worker in the country.
“Let’s see what the Commissioner thinks you can do in your own time.”
The bottom line
Miles Heffernan from Fair Work Claims described the actions of the contracting company as “disgusting”.
“I think it’s appalling to sack a person for falling asleep on their break, especially when they are not being paid while on that break,” he said
“It’s very common for healthcare workers to take naps on their breaks to help get them through the night shift.”
Previously, the Fair Work Commission ruled employees can take naps during their allotted break.
“This employer has a duty of care to ensure staff fatigue is effectively managed,” Mr Heffernan said.
“By their firing these women, the employer has effectively sent a message to all night shift workers – don’t fall asleep, or you might get the sack!
“I can only imagine the uproar when someone falls asleep and crashes their car when driving home from work because they didn’t think they could nap on their break.”
Please call our specialist team at Fair Work Claims today on
To connect with us, please follow us on
Fair Work Claims is part of the Supportah Network.
We are a private consultancy and advocacy firm with no affiliation to any government agency, commission or tribunal.