Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the managerial prerogative in relation to employment law?

Although a request to perform acts beyond the function and contractual appointment may not need to be obeyed by the employee, there are a number of matters that may not be specified in the contract of employment. The existence of the managerial prerogative provides scope for the employer to give directions to an employee that must be obeyed. However, the orders must be reasonable, as was noted by Dixon J in R v Darling Island Stevedoring and Lighter; ex parte Halliday and Sullivan (1948) 60 CLR 601 where his Honour said (at 601-622):

“If a command relates to the subject matter of the employment and involves no illegality, the obligation of the servant to obey it depends at common law upon it being reasonable... what is reasonable is vacuo. The nature of the employment, the established usages affecting it, the common practices which exist and the general provisions of the instrument, in this case an award, governing the relationship, supply considerations by which the determination of what is reasonable must be controlled.”

However, determining what is reasonable will be dependent on the facts of each individual case.


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