Reasonable Management Action

Reasonable Management Action – Transfer conversation wasn’t pressure to resign: FWC

An employee who claims she was made to feel incompetent and pressured to resign has failed to convince the Fair Work Commission that she was constructively dismissed.

The Bupa Dental receptionist told FWC Deputy President Clancy that after she was rebuked for not knowing instrument names and for failing to follow infection control protocols, her manager offered to help her transfer to a quieter clinic within the company.

About a week later, the employee said her manager asked if she’d found another job and said it would be “best” if she resigned. A month after that, following an incident involving a missing tool that made her look “incompetent” in front of a dentist, she resigned via text, saying she was “unfit” to stay.

The manager’s evidence was that during a casual discussion where the employee said her last practice was quieter, the manager raised the option of relocation to a smaller practice. When the employee asked about going to a non-Bupa practice the manager said in that case, it would be better to resign. After the employee said she wasn’t resigning the manager said that was fine, and later stressed any decision to leave was completely up to the employee.

Deputy President Clancy was unconvinced by the employee’s perception of the conversation and found it didn’t directly cause her to resign. Seven weeks passed between the transfer conversation and her resignation, he noted, and the text she eventually sent was three days after the tool incident, so not written in the “heat of the moment” or when the employee was “in a state of emotional stress or mental confusion”. Having found the employee’s resignation was voluntary, he dismissed her unfair dismissal application.

Tran v Bupa Dental Corporation Pty Ltd [2018] FWC 3237 (4 June 2018)

Originally published at HR

One of the issues with complaints of bullying and unfair dismissal claims following performance management is that staff and managers don’t really understand the difference between reasonable management action and bullying and how decisions made by management are not necessarily unreasonable just because a person doesn’t like them.

The Fair Work Act s789FD (2) states,

‘Behaviour will not be considered bullying if it is reasonable management action carried out in a reasonable manner.’

The Safe Work Australia Guide to preventing & responding workplace bullying states;

“Workplace conflict

Differences of opinion and disagreements are generally not workplace bullying. People can have differences or disagreements in the workplace without engaging in repeated, unreasonable behaviour that creates a risk to health and safety.

Some people may also take offence at action taken by management, but that does not mean that the management action in itself was unreasonable.”

Reasonable Management Action – Lesson for employers

  1. Train all of staff to understand what reasonable management action (RMA) is and the difference between RMA and workplace bullying.
  2. Train your managers to understand how to conduct performance management and provide feedback to ensure that it is consistent with RMA
  3. Have a effective mechanism to investigate complaints that may result from management action

AWPTI can assist you in these areas with;
Training for managers –
Training for staff –
Workplace Investigations –
Reasonable Management Action Manual –


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