QIRC rejects police officers claim for permanent Work from Home arrangements

QIRC rejects police officers claim for permanent Work from Home arrangements

The Queensland Industrial Relations Commission has upheld the decision of the Queensland Police Service to reject a request from a public servant to be allowed to work from home one day per week.

The employee ‘EF’ is employed by the Queensland Police Service (QPS) as a Prosecutor within the QPS Legal Division. He commenced employment in May 2019 and was permanently appointed as a Prosecutor on 30 August 2019.

On 14 April 2022, EF made an application for a flexible working arrangement (FWA) under the QPS policy, seeking to work from home one day per week. The application was not supported, but a trial arrangement was entered into whereby he was allowed to work from home one day per month.

On 5 August 2022, he was formally advised in writing that his FWA application was not being supported but that the monthly trial arrangements would remain. He then submitted a Grievance against the decision, which was rejected, leading to his appeal to the QIRC.

The primary basis for the QPS’s rejection of his application was that it would place additional workloads on other prosecutors who are required to attend to additional court requirements, phone calls and other office-related duties. Consequently, it would challenge the service delivery obligations of the unit as well as impact the health and well-being of other staff.

There was also a belief that meaningful duties could not be supplied to EF to work from home each week.

EF submitted that working remotely significantly improves his work-life balance by providing him with extended time with his young family, allowing him time to flexibly share the parental and household responsibilities, and enabling him to be available to care for his children and ageing mother-in-law at short notice.

EF has a medical condition that he claims would be improved by his requested FWA, but he did not provide any specific medical information to support this.

In reviewing the decision, Commissioner Sam Pidgeon referred to the principles enunciated in Gilmour v Waddell & Ors, noting,

“for a decision to be unreasonable, it must lack evidence and intelligible justification, and where a decision may be reasonably justified, it is not an unreasonable decision, even if a reviewing court may disagree with it”.

Commissioner Pidgeon acknowledged,

I have no doubt that working from home provides Mr (F) with the benefits he sets out in his submissions”.

However, as she noted in her determination,

“I disagree with Mr (F’s) submission that the decision lacks intelligent justification”. She further noted, “I find that the decision was reasonably justified when taking into account the Respondent’s Flexible Working Arrangements Policy and the specific circumstances surrounding Mr (F’s) FWA request, his role and position at the time the request was considered, the medical issues he raised and the recent history involving the implementation of suitable duties and permanent restrictions”.

Consequently, the Commissioner confirmed the QPS’s decision to reject the FWA request.

Fraser v State of Queensland (Queensland Police Service) [2023] QIRC 89 (21 March 2023)

For queries about flexible working arrangements or other employment questions, please contact Dean Cameron at Workforce Advisory Lawyers – We Know Employment Law on  0417 622 178, 1300 WAL LAW 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.

Ref: 343.0523

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