Does reasonable management action need to be perfect...

Does reasonable management action need to be perfect...

The rise of workplace bullying, unfair dismissal and general protections claims in the Fair Work Commission is not surprising considering the current economic and business climate.

Managers and supervisors understanding of what is reasonable management action undertaken in a reasonable way is essential – businesses and employers need to seriously and genuinely consider the nature of reasonable management action.

So... what is reasonable management action?

There is an express acknowledgement by the Fair Work Commission and the legislation that steps need to be taken to ensure a business runs effectively and productivity continues. 

There must be some line of cause and effect between conduct, behaviour and performance of an employee with the relevant management action and that the management action taken is a reasonable and proportionate response.

Nine examples of reasonable management action include:

  1. Providing constructive feedback on performance
  2. Informing a worker about work that is unsatisfactory
  3. Letting an employee know about behaviour that is inappropriate workplace behaviour
  4. Allocating work to an employee and controlling and directing how it needs to be carried out
  5. Placing an employee on a performance improvement plan
  6. Modifying an employee’s duties
  7. Redeploying an employee
  8. Expecting employees to obtain workplace goals and maintain workplace standards
  9. Requesting an independent medical examination for an employee to assess whether they’re physically fit to fulfil the requirements of the role

It does not have to be perfect… case study of Toll Transport

The Tribunal and Courts have recognised that management action does not need to be perfect to be considered reasonable.

In the Fair Work Commission; stop workplace bullying case of Rohit [2020] FWC 5881 (9 November 2020), the managers of Toll Transport had to defend action they took against an employee. Namely the following actions were deemed to be inappropriate:

  • video footage of a car accident was reviewed in an open plan office setting where other workers could view the accident; and
  • a manager inappropriately brought up the family situation of the employee by saying it would be “ok” if he didn’t see his wife for three days.

Although the instances were deemed inappropriate, the FWC did not constitute workplace bullying.

Key understanding

It is quite clear the FWC will give managers and supervisors scope in relation to reasonable action taken. However, embarrassing, belittling behaviour and a lack of adherence to procedural fairness and natural justice will be frowned upon and may be considered bullying behaviour.

 It can also lead to claims in:

  • Discrimination
  • Human rights complaints
  • General protections claims
  • Unfair dismissal claims
  • Constructive dismissal
  • Workplace health and safety breaches
  • Workplace bullying

Training and education for managers managing people is absolutely essential.

If you are considering undertaking training for your supervisors and managers or require assistance with your management team gaining an understanding of what is reasonable management, Akyra can assist you. Contact us on 07 3204 8830, for an obligation-free conversation or to discuss any queries you may have.

If you require advice or assistance with compliance, any people management circumstances or managing your workforce, contact Akyra on 07 3204 8830, for an obligation-free conversation or to discuss any queries you may have.

Contact us now to book a time to discuss your areas of potential concern and we will then provide a way forward where it might be needed.


Disclaimer – Reliance on Content

The material distributed is general information only. The information supplied is not and is not intended to be, legal or other professional advice, nor should it be relied upon as such. You should seek legal or professional advice in relation to your specific situation.


Source: NB Lawyers, June 2021


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