Lack of Consultation can undermine management decisions

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Lack of Consultation can undermine management decisions

Failure by employers to adequately consult with their employees when required can have detrimental impacts on decisions that may themselves be otherwise sound or based upon genuine operational requirements. The principle was recently addressed in a Queensland Workers’ Compensation Appeal case where the regulator rejected an employee’s initial claim for a psychological injury on the basis that it arose from a `reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way’.

The circumstances of the appeal centred upon the decision to make an employee redundant and how the decision was implemented.

The employee had worked for Steritech Pty Ltd (the employer) for over fifteen years, initially as a Plant Operator and then promoted to an `Irradiation Supervisor’ position in 2010.  In 2017 and 2018, the employee was absent from work due to a non work-related medical condition. During his absence, the employer made regular contact with him regarding his return to work and did not indicate that his employment was at risk.

However, shortly after he returned to work, he was summoned to a meeting and informed he was being made redundant, with immediate effect. He was paid his full redundancy entitlements, and his employment ceased.

In allowing the employee leave to appeal, Commissioner McLennan determined that the employer did not act in a reasonable way towards the employee. She based her decision on a number of factors, including:

  • The employer attempted to rely on the negative view they had formed of his performance (although this had not been documented and she could not determine whether or not issues had ever been raised with him);

  • The employer did not give any consideration to re-deployment to alternate duties (or even discuss the possibility with him); and

  • The employer did not consult with the employee, nor notify him of the possibility of redundancy at any stage.

The Commissioner was particularly critical of the lack of consultation with the employee, including that he was summoned to a meeting without forewarning of the true purpose of the meeting, nor afforded the opportunity to have a support person present.

As she stated,

“In my view, the meeting was not conducted in a reasonable manner. In circumstances where (the employee) had served the company for more than 15 years and had just returned to work after an extended period of absence due to illness, I accept that he felt blindsided by a hastily conducted meeting absent (sic) elements of procedural fairness”.

Further, she stated, “That management did not consult, leads me to find that (his) termination was not reasonable management action”.

In allowing the appeal, Commissioner McLennan also ordered the regulator to pay the appellant’s cost in the matter.

S v Workers’ Compensation Regulator [2021] QIRC 110 (31 March 2021)

For queries about consultation, redundancy or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on 1300 WAL LAW, 0417 622 178 or via email to dean.cameron@workforceadvisory.com.au

Disclaimer: This information is provided as general advice on workplace relations and employment law. It does not constitute legal advice, and it is always advisable to seek further information regarding specific workplace issues. Liability limited by a scheme approved under professional standards legislation.

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