Managerial prerogative

When the Commission won't intervene in Council's decision.

Managerial prerogative


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Written by Paul Spoto, Associate, Peak Legal & Workforce

Adams v QPS demonstrates the ability of the employer to conduct and manage its business, as it sees fit, and without external interferences.  Essentially, the lesson for Councils from this case is that the industrial relations umpire, the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC,) is loathed to and, in fact, prevented from, interfering in management decisions where appropriate consultation has occurred, the decision could not be seen and unjust and unreasonable and where no statutory or industrial instrument barrier exists to the implementation of the decision.

In the case, Adams v State of Queensland (Queensland Police Service) [2020] QIRC 110 (Adams v QPS) the concept of managerial prerogative, or managerial right to make a decision was at the centre of a dispute over whether the Respondent, the Queensland Police Service (the QPS) could transfer a police officer, Ms Adams to another Division, where the officer did not wish to be relocated for various reasons.

The Applicant, Ms Adams, filed a dispute in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission (QIRC) disputing the decision of the QPS to transfer her and requested the assistance of the QIRC following the lodgment of the grievance.

The issue for determination was whether, in the exercise of the QIRC’s power to arbitrate an unresolved industrial dispute, the QIRC should intervene in the QPS’s decision to transfer Ms Adams.  The specific question was whether, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the decision to allocate Ms Adams to another Division was unjust or unreasonable.

In his decision, DP Merrell found that the decision to transfer Ms Adams was “an exercise of managerial prerogative…”, as it was made for the efficient and proper administration, management and functioning of the QPS.

In such matters, the QIRC would consider if the action was a lawful exercise of managerial prerogative and, in examining all the facts, determine where the employer is imposing something on an employee that is unjust or unreasonable. It is not up to the QIRC to interfere with the right of an employer to manage its own business.

In this case, DP Merrell found that the decision to move Ms Adams to another Division was not unjust or unreasonable.

The implications of Adams v QPS are that, where Council has a need to undertake a workplace change such as, for example, a change to start and finishing times within the existing work hours span, and has consulted with employees and unions about the proposed change, provided the change is not unjust or unreasonable, and they are not constrained by any provision in a statute or an industrial instrument, no barrier exists to its implementation.  In such a case, the QIRC will not interfere with the right of an employer to manage its business.

Councils must consider and be satisfied that appropriate consultation with affected employees has taken place; the proposed decision is not unjust and unreasonable and not prevented by legislation or by the applicable industrial instrument,  in order to be exercising managerial prerogative and should seek legal advice in the first instance.

If you have any questions about the obligations in undertaking workplace changes, including the concept of managerial prerogative, please don’t hesitate to contact the Peak Legal team on 07 3000 2148 or at

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