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State of anxiety: over-the-top management style slammed by Tribunal

The simple matter of an employee returning late from leave has escalated into a stress leave situation and legal matter within 3 days due to a heavy handed email from a company manager. 

The Tasmanian Workers Rehabilitation and Compensation Tribunal found management emails to a worker who developed anxiety were disproportionate to the seriousness of her transgression.



The evidence before the tribunal indicated: 

  • The worker's anxiety condition arose from the employer's conduct in emailing the worker to give her notice of a meeting to discuss a “serious matter”, i.e. a one day absence, and subsequently telling her it may affect her ongoing employment.
  • The employee’s doctor affirmed she was “totally incapacitated” due to anxiety.
  • The one-day absence was due to the worker's inability to secure a return flight from a holiday in Melbourne at the end of a long weekend.
  • She had notified a manager of her unplanned absence in advance.
  • She was aware of the need to retrospectively complete a leave form, which she had advised the employer she would do.
  • She indicated that she had worked a twelve hour day the previous Friday
  • The worker did not have a history of absenteeism without prior notice and her absence did not cause the employer any particular hardship, loss or even inconvenience.

The tribunal determined that the worker was entitled to compensation for her condition because the employer’s response to the worker’s unplanned absence was not reasonable, rather it was "heavy-handed and totally disproportionate to the seriousness of the worker’s transgression".

iHR believes that employers can avoid costly and time consuming stress claims and legal battles with properly conducted employee relations.  We are offering an employee relations program where our facilitator and Senior Workplace Relations Adviser will guide participants through the relevant employment legislation, associated practices and guiding principles in relation to people management.  This program will also focus on risk mitigation when managing people and on the role of effective Employee Relations management in meeting business objectives as well as compliance obligations. Key concepts and practices are illustrated utilising actors in iHR's unique Workplace Reality Theatre. During this program, participants are also given the opportunity to practise newly acquired skills through interaction with the actors, building confidence and embedding learning.


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