Tech troubles | Worker sacked for not clocking in blamed errors on HR app

Worker sacked for not clocking in blamed errors on HR app

A woman who claimed that problems with an HR app were responsible for her losing her job has had her sacking upheld by an employment tribunal.

Anarieta Virisilla was working as a cleaner for Mermaid Cleaning between May 2020 and October 2021, and was required to clock in and out of work using the HumanForce app on her smartphone. However, she consistently failed to clock her hours on the app, and after seven months of this, the company let her go.

Ms Virisilla argued at the tribunal in Melbourne, Australia that she was not properly trained in using the app, and that it often failed. She claimed that, when she received the app error message, she would send a screenshot to her boss, and later confirm the hours she worked. She said that when she claimed about this to HR, she received little or no support. She also claimed she was unfairly singled out, as many other company employees did not use the app.

However, the tribunal found that Ms Virisilla had received training on how to use the app when she started the job, and that the training was sufficient for her to understand it. Fair Work Commission Deputy President Alan Colman pointed out that she’d used the app successfully when she first started the job, but that she failed to use it after about two-thirds of her rostered shifts, reports.

Mr Colman found that there was no problem with the app, and that other employees were using it successfully.

Explaining his reasoning behind the decision to uphold Ms Virisilla’s sacking, he said: “Ms Virisilla was not diligent in her use of the application. The company clearly warned her that this failure consistently to clock on and off was unacceptable. In my opinion, the company had a valid reason to dismiss Ms Virisilla,” reports

He added: “By not using the application consistently, Ms Virisilla created a large amount of unnecessary administrative work for other people. This was not sustainable. The company was very patient with her. In the end, its patience understandably ran out.”

Tech woes for HR

Although employment experts dismissed the claims about the HR app's errors, there has recently been legitimate cause for concern about the increasing reliance on tech advances within the people function. For example, last October, a New York Times expose revealed that a bug in Amazon’s HR systems hled to workers being fired and many missing out on months of pay after applying for leave due to care-giving and medical reasons.

The underpayment issue was first noticed when employees received pay checks that were much lower than expected.

Although, at least in one instance, this pay discrepancy was raised with the Seattle-headquartered organisation, it kept occurring.

Speaking to The New York Times, one Amazon warehouse worker, said the issue led her to become so exasperated – after she was underpaid for months at a time – that she emailed Founder Jeff Bezos directly.

And in the UK, hundreds of thousands of UK workers were affected by an apparent ransomware attack on a widely-used payroll system, just days before Christmas 2021.

As reported widely, firms such as Boots, Sainsbury’s and Jaguar Land Rover had their HR and payroll systems impacted by a cyber attack on Kronos, a system used to log, store and process the hours employees have worked.

According to the BBC, Kronos warned that it could be "several weeks" before systems were restored fully, and warned told employers to use "alternative business protocols" to ensure their staff get paid on time.

At Sainsbury’s alone, around one week's worth of data for its 150,000 UK employees was lost, according to the national broadcaster.

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