Line manager out of line

When a unit manager at a Sydney hospital told some nurses they wouldn’t have to work night shift, she had exceeded her authority and ultimately caused a dispute. This was the finding of the President of the NSW Industrial Relations Commission, when the seven nurses complained that they now had to work nights.

The award which applies to the work made it clear that working nights is a feature of employment. After all, it is a hospital. However the seven claimed their unit manager had verbally indicated they would not be required to work nights. This was proved in the evidence before the Commission, but the decision nevertheless went against the nurses.

The words of the award were very clear on the working of shifts. Also, the delegations within the hospital and the department in NSW generally, meant that there was no authority for the unit manager to make the arrangement.

This case debunks the myth that if a middle manager allows or disallows an action beyond their delegation, that the employer has lost their rights to countermand. The case reinforces the importance of stating in enterprise agreements exactly what is expected of staff. It also makes it clear that line management must not be allowed to go beyond their remit. Where they do, the employer must stand their ground, and insist that a ‘rogue’ member of staff cannot usurp authority.

NSW Nurses’ Association v Sydney Local Health District [2012] NSWIRComm 52 (27 June 2012)