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Delivery of Commission services

Image of Commissioner Gregory sitting in his chambers

In exercising powers and functions under the Fair Work Act, the Commission provides assistance to a range of parties, including employees and employers and their representatives, federally registered unions, and employer organisations.

The Commission offers a wide range of advice and assistance over the telephone, in person and through correspondence and information materials on its website.

Applications

Tribunal processes commence once a formal application has been lodged with the Commission.

In 2018–19, a total of 31,415 applications were lodged with the Commission, similar to the total of 31,554 applications in 2017–18. Table 1 summarises applications lodged according to matter type from 2015–16 to 2018–19; more detail on lodgments in 2018–19 is in Table D16: Applications lodged, by matter type in Appendix D.

In 2018–19, unfair dismissal applications were the most common, accounting for 44 per cent of total applications, as in 2017–18. Consistent with previous years, applications for approval of an enterprise agreement were the second most common, making up 16 per cent of total applications. Applications for general protections involving dismissal made up 14 per cent of total applications in 2018–19.

Table 1: Applications lodged, by matter type

Matter type

2018–19

2017–18

2016–17

2015–16

Unfair dismissal

13,928

13,595

14,135

14,694

Agreement approvals

4,932

5,287

5,698

5,529

General protections involving dismissal1

4,508

4,117

3,729

3,270

Dispute resolution2

1,876

1,767

2,106

2,194

Right of entry3

1,242

1,350

1,521

1,628

General protections – other4

1,132

992

937

940

Agreements – other5

1,060

1,789

1,180

1,335

Industrial action6

845

895

797

1,272

Order to stop bullying

751

721

722

734

Bargaining7

389

349

399

408

Registered organisations8

187

163

1,243

1,472

Appeals

175

190

237

283

Other matters

390

339

367

456

Total

31,415

31,554

33,071

34,215

1 Applications made under s.365 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (FWA).

2 Applications made under ss.120, 526, 533, 699 and 739 of the FWA.

3 Applications made under s.512 of the FWA.

4 Applications made under ss.372 and 773 of the FWA.

5 Applications to vary and terminate enterprise agreements and transitional individual agreements.

6 Applications made under ss.266, 418, 419, 423, 424, 425, 426, 437, 447, 448, 459 and 472 of the FWA.

7 Applications made under ss.229, 236, 238, 240, 242 and 248 of the FWA.

8 Since the establishment of the Registered Organisations Commission (ROC) on 1 May 2017, most applications previously dealt with by the Commission are now dealt with by the ROC

Hearings and conferences

In 2018–19, the Commission held 11,702 hearings and conferences around Australia, an increase of 5 per cent compared with a total of 11,196 in 2017–18.

Hearings and conferences are held in each capital city and regional locations. They are held in person, by telephone or by videoconference. Not all matters involve a hearing or conference – some are decided by a Member on the papers.

Members hold hearings and conferences by telephone or videoconference wherever suitable, to reduce parties’ travel time and costs and to ensure efficient use of Commission resources. In 2018–19, 30 per cent of all hearings and conferences conducted by Members were held by telephone or videoconference, compared with 32 per cent in 2017–18. Twenty-five per cent of matters, predominantly applications for approval of enterprise agreements, were decided by a Member on the papers, without the need for a hearing or conference.

In addition, experienced staff conducted 10,408 conciliation conferences during 2018–19, compared with 10,491 in 2017–18. Conciliators hold conferences in relation to applications concerning unfair dismissal, general protections involving dismissal, and anti-bullying. The overwhelming majority of conciliations are conducted by telephone. See Table D15: Hearings and conferences conducted by Members, by location or method in Appendix D for detailed information on hearings and conferences.

Decisions and orders

In 2018–19, the Commission issued a total of 10,974 decisions and orders, an increase of 13 per cent from 2017–18, as set out in Table D14: Decisions and orders published in Appendix D.

Timeliness benchmarks

Our portfolio budget statements set out performance standards for timeliness of staff conciliation conferences in unfair dismissal applications, approval of enterprise agreements, and completion of the annual wage review.

In addition, the Commission has set performance benchmarks concerning delivery of reserved decisions by a single Member, dealing with applications for the approval of enterprise agreements, the hearing of appeals, and handing down reserved decisions in appeal matters.

The benchmarks set a standard to which the Commission aspires, as well as quantifiable measures of performance that provide transparency and accountability.

Figures 2 to 4 compare the Tribunal’s performance against benchmarks in 2018–19 with its performance before the introduction of the benchmarks. While performance has improved in most instances since the benchmarks were introduced in 2012, there remains room for further improvement. Improved timeliness performance will be a significant focus in the year ahead.

Figure 2: Timeliness benchmarks – reserved decisions

Timeliness benchmarks – reserved decisions

Figure 3: Timeliness benchmarks – appeals

Timeliness benchmarks – appeals

Figure 4: Timeliness benchmarks – reserved decisions in appeals

Timeliness benchmarks – reserved decisions in appeals