Our advice, education and dispute resolution services recognise that different issues require different types of assistance. When deciding how best to assist people, we assess each request for assistance, including the circumstances and issues, on a case-by-case basis. We aim to resolve problems between employers and employees before they escalate into formal disputes. This approach helps maintain productive and cooperative employment relationships and enables the faster recovery of unpaid wages.
In 2018–19, the number of workplace disputes finalised through our early intervention, mediation and small claims assistance services increased compared to all previous years. The FWO finalised 27,874 of workplace disputes (96% of all disputes) through our advice, education and assisted dispute resolution services.
Where employees and employers need assistance to resolve their workplace issues, we may refer them to an early intervention specialist in the first instance.
The early intervention specialist tailors advice for both parties in response to the issues raised and the needs of the customers. This can include:
- providing advice and education in relation to workplace rights and obligations
- facilitating discussions, focusing on supporting the parties to have effective workplace conversations
- talking employees and employers through their options
- providing online resources and education
- beginning a mediation process, if appropriate.
We completed more than 22,000 disputes through early intervention in 2018–19. Of the $26.9 million recovered from our education and dispute resolution activities, over $18.8 million came from early intervention. Seventy per cent of all monies recovered through dispute resolution were a result of early intervention activities.
Early intervention disputes and recoveries, 2017-19
We mediate workplace disputes where facts are unclear and where parties consent.
In 2018–19, our accredited mediators worked with parties to complete 4490 disputes and recover over $6.7 million in unpaid wages. The recoveries are a 3% increase from the previous year.
In addition to monetary and entitlement settlements, outcomes agreed by the parties can include:
- changes to working arrangements
- the return of goods and documents.
Small claims assistance
Where disputes can't be resolved through early intervention or mediation, customers may be offered assistance with lodging a matter in the small claims court. This service is provided to both employees and employers for matters where the claim is less than $20,000.
Our assistance team helps customers in a number of ways, including:
- drafting a pre-claim letter to the employer
- discussing different court options
- preparing and presenting calculations
- completing court forms including applications and responses
- explaining different stages of court processes
- filing and serving court documents.
In 2018–19, the FWO provided information and guidance to assist over 1000 people with small claims and recovery of $1,123,616 in unpaid entitlements.
FWO lawyers also attend small claims hearings as a 'friend of the court'. In this capacity, we don't act for either party, but can assist the parties and the court on points of law or procedure. In 2018–19, the FWO attended as a friend of the court in over 400 matters.