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Case lessons - Administrative action exclusion

For: Employers and managers Information seekers

The purpose is to highlight for employers and claims managers key lessons from Court and Tribunal decisions about applying the reasonable administrative action exclusion.

These case lessons should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal or other professional advice.


A workplace injury may not be compensable if it was caused by administrative action, such as performance management, denial of leave or promotion decisions. This is to allow employers to manage their employees, provided that the administrative action is reasonable and conducted reasonably.

Case lessons

Performance management


A Tribunal decision handed down on 27 June 2017 found that performance management was reasonable where there were legitimate and ongoing concerns about performance. However, the performance management must be conducted reasonably.

Minor departures from policy may be reasonable, but substantial and repeated failures to follow policy will usually be unreasonable.

  • Keep records, particularly file notes
  • Advise employees if they are entitled to a support person
  • Advise employees of consequences if performance does not improve
  • Provide an action plan before starting a coaching and mentoring process
  • Consider an employee’s reaction—what is reasonable may be different for an employee who is distressed
  • Performance issues may be addressed in an informal way, such as an email with a summary of lessons learned

Counselling session


A counselling session was found by the Tribunal on 31 May 2017 to have been conducted unreasonably and highlights some steps supervisors should follow.

The decision also highlights supervisors must act reasonably even when faced with dangerous or unusual circumstances, such as overseas postings.

  • Give sufficient notice of a counselling session and consider whether the employees should have the option of bringing a support person
  • Take notes of counselling sessions
  • Inform employees of counselling sessions privately

Leave application


A supervisor’s actions raising issues with the communication of a personal leave application were found by the Tribunal on 26 June 2017 to be reasonable and conducted reasonably.

The supervisor sent emails raising operational difficulties with the leave application, including the need to replace the employee on a selection panel on short notice.

  • Raise any concerns in a professional manner
  • The fact that an action causes an employee distress does not, in itself, mean that it was unreasonable
  • Direct and robust communication between senior officers should be regarded as common place and reasonable

This information is for: Government sector and self-insured licensees

Document number: SRC400

Page last reviewed: 15 December 2019
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Date printed 05 Jul 2020