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Performance measure 3.3: Administration of the industrial relations system

The industrial relations system is well-maintained and improvements are considered and implemented based on high-quality legal and policy advice and effective engagement with key stakeholders

This performance measure was achieved.

Performance targets


3.3.1 Stakeholder and client satisfaction greater than 80% in relation to:

  • effectiveness (expertise and quality of relationship)
  • efficiency (timeliness and responsiveness)


3.3.2 Companies, unions, industry stakeholders and state and territory governments are engaged in discussions on policy development


3.3.3 Qualitative analysis shows that policy advice is effective in supporting the effectiveness of the industrial relations system and economic data and analysis is timely


3.3.4 Qualitative analysis shows the effectiveness of legal advice in supporting litigation to ensure the efficient and effective functioning of the industrial relations framework



  • Portfolio Budget Statements 2020–21, Outcome 2, Program 2.1, page 42
  • Corporate Plan 2020–24, page 30

3.3.1 In response to questions related to this target in the department’s stakeholder survey, 90% of respondents rated our effectiveness positively and 80% rated our efficiency positively. A detailed explanation of the stakeholder survey methodology and results is at Appendix 2: Methodologies.

In relation to specific markers of our effectiveness:

  • 98% of respondents agreed that our engagement with stakeholders is respectful
  • 90% of respondents agreed that we have high levels of expertise
  • 90% of respondents agreed that we provide high-quality advice.

An area respondents indicated for improvement was in the need for timely communication. However, in relation to specific questions about our responsiveness to requests for assistance, we received strong results with 88% of respondents giving a positive rating.

Stakeholder and client satisfaction can be influenced by a range of factors including some outside of the department’s control. Disruptions to the department’s operations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may have affected our ability to provide timely communication.

3.3.2 We continued to engage with industrial relations stakeholders, states and territories and other Australian Government departments and agencies in the formation of policy and legislation, including on the operation of the national industrial relations system and work health and safety matters.

During 2020–21:

  • We worked with industrial relations stakeholders and states and territories to develop the Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Bill 2021. Working groups comprising union and employer industry groups were established to develop reforms to the industrial relations system as part of the government’s pandemic response.
  • We led a co-design process to develop a Roadmap of short-, medium- and long-term options for regulatory technology solutions to help businesses navigate obligations under the awards system. This process involved workshops and individual consultations with small business, representatives from the technology sector, unions, employer industry groups and other government agencies. The co-design process extended our understanding of user experiences and supported the development of a final Roadmap that was published on 12 May 2021. The success of the co-design process has resulted in positive ongoing stakeholder engagement during the implementation phase of the policy.
  • We supported the Fair Work Ombudsman’s engagement with industrial relations stakeholders to co-design the new Employer Advisory Service. This provides free, tailored advice to small businesses on their workplace obligations.
  • We worked across government, including with Safe Work Australia, the Fair Work Ombudsman and the Department of Health as well as peak employer and employee groups to ensure that work health and safety guidance on COVID-19 vaccination is clear, consistent and builds confidence about the vaccine rollout. We did this through regular, ongoing engagement with these groups and roundtable meetings with representatives to identify workplace-related issues of concern with the vaccine rollout and discuss options to address these as a group. These discussions helped inform updates to existing workplace guidance and further policy measures to ensure workplaces are supported in the rollout.

3.3.3 We provide advice to government on emerging issues, legislation, opportunities for reform as well as routine matters in relation to the operation of the national industrial relations system and national work, health and safety matters. The focus is on briefings that are consistent and high quality and the provision of policy advice that is evidence-based and supported by economic data and analysis.

An assessment panel evaluated the quality of a sample of work produced in 2020–21 against the standards of context, analysis, advice and action. The panel concluded that the sample demonstrated that policy advice supported the effectiveness of the industrial relations system. Further information on the assessment process is at Appendix 2: Methodologies.

The department’s commitment to the timely provision of economic evidence and analysis supports policy development within the national industrial relations system. Two examples of providing economic data and advice include coordinating the government’s submission to the Fair Work Commission’s Annual Wage Review and producing the Quarterly Trends in Federal Enterprise Bargaining report. The report is published on the department’s website before the end of each quarter. The benchmark is for the report to be published on the department’s website before the end of each subsequent quarter and the government’s submission to the Annual Wage Review to be submitted by the deadline set by the Fair Work Commission.

To evaluate the timeliness of economic data and analysis against this target, we reviewed deadlines and submission dates for our activities. The government’s submission to the 2020–21 Annual Wage Review was submitted by the required date of 26 March. The publishing dates for the most recent quarterly Trends in Federal Enterprise Bargaining reports were:

  • 18 December 2020 for the September quarter 2020 report, before the deadline of 31 December 2020
  • 26 March 2021 for the December quarter 2020 report , before the deadline of 31 March 2021
  • 25 June 2021 for the March quarter 2021 report , before the deadline of 30 June 2021.

The June quarter 2021 report is expected to be published by 30 September 2021.

The first 3 quarters of Federal Enterprise Bargaining data were released before the deadlines, while the final quarter was not due at 30 June 2021. By meeting the deadlines for the provision of economic data and analysis, we have successfully achieved the timeliness element of the performance target.

The 2 elements of this performance target have equal weighting and both play an important role in ensuring the department’s industrial relations policy advice is backed by evidence. By achieving both elements, we have achieved the performance target as a whole.

3.3.4 We manage and provide advice to the government in relation to ministerial interventions in appropriate legal matters to ensure that the industrial relations legislative framework is functioning as intended. We also manage litigation before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal in relation to the administration of the Fair Entitlements Guarantee.

Qualitative analysis demonstrated that legal advice effectively supported litigation to ensure the efficient and effective functioning of the industrial relations framework. Nominated officers assessed advices in the work sample as ‘effective’ in supporting the relevant litigation matter by applying equally weighted criteria, measuring whether each legal advice was clear, logical and supported by precedent. The efficiency of legal advices was also assessed by reference to whether any court deadlines were missed for the relevant litigation.

Further information on the assessment process is at Appendix 2: Methodologies.