This note provides a brief summary of the methods used to produce the analysis of the nature of applications to the Commission between 1998–99 and 2013–14 (Chart 2).

The analysis is based on time-series data. Time-series data is a collection of observations for the same entity (in this case, the national workplace relations tribunal) for multiple time periods. Time-series data can provide information on historical trends and be used to predict future values of variables.

The main data source used for this preliminary analysis is data from the Commission’s annual reports. From 1998–99 to 2010–11 the annual reports summarised the work of the Commission in a table entitled ‘Historical table of case load categories’. A similar table was produced for the 2011–12 annual report entitled ‘Fair Work Australia cases’. The most comparable data in the 2012–13 annual report is provided at Table H3, entitled ‘Cases by Matter Type’, and at Table K3 for the 2013–14 Annual Report.

Problems can arise in time-series analysis when it is difficult to achieve time series consistency. One situation where this may occur is when there is a change in data availability or gaps in data. This is an important consideration in the analysis of matters before the Commission. The annual reports contain different classifications of matter types and different levels of aggregation due to:

  • changes in the reporting practices and format of the Commission’s annual reports, and
  • changes to the national workplace relations legislation, which result in new case categories.

For this reason, the analysis undertaken is with the intention of showing general trends over time only. Caution should be exercised in relying on the estimates provided of ‘individual’ and ‘collective’ matters due to the stated matters above concerning the differences in underlying data captured from the Commission’s annual reports over time.

It is important to recognise that the individual/collective classification is not based on categories defined in the Fair Work Act 2009 (Fair Work Act) or the Workplace Relations Act 1996 (WR Act). The classification of particular types of matters as ‘collective’ or ‘individual’ is based on an objective assessment by the Commission’s staff. The analysis is based on available data and does not capture the full workload of the Commission. Matters were included in the analysis based on whether a clear link could be established between a particular matter type and the exercise of collective (or association) rights or the exercise of individual (employee) rights.

The methodology for calculating the total number of agreements for Chart 2 has changed to take account of the Commission’s changed reporting of a broader range of enterprise agreement applications other than applications for approval of enterprise agreements under section 185 of the Act. Agreements data for this chart have therefore been recalculated for the years between 2011–12 and 2013–14 using data from Table H4: Nature of proceedings (Appendix H). This has not led to a noticeable change in the trends presented in Chart 6 of the Annual Report 2012–13 (PDF).

Further information on the history of changes in the methodology for Chart 2 is presented in Appendix O of the Annual Report 2012–13 (PDF).

Table D1 provides an overview of the case load categories included in the analysis of the Commission’s work between 2007–2008 and 2013–14.

Technical points to note in relation to this table are:

  • the case load category Appeals (or, Full Bench matters including Appeals) is divided into Unfair Dismissal Appeals (individual) and Other Appeals (collective)
  • the case load category Dispute notifications is divided into General protections notifications under the Fair Work Act section 365 and section 773 (individual) and Other dispute notifications (collective)
  • the case load category Agreements is divided into Applications to terminate Individual agreement-based transitional instruments (individual) and Other Agreements matters (collective), and
  • a number of matter types have not been included in the analysis, including matters pursuant to the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009 (Registered Organisations Act).

Understanding these underlying assumptions, and how they relate to the estimates of ‘collective’ and ‘individual’ matters, should be part of assessing the dynamics of workplace relations at the national level.

Table D1 —Matters included in the total case load categories
Individual matters Collective matters
Matter type Section of the Fair Work
Act (or other legislation)
Matter type Section of the Fair Work
Act (or other legislation)
Unfair dismissal appeals FW Act, s.604 Full Bench matters and Appealsa FW Act, s.604 and WR Act s.120
Applications to terminate individual agreement-based transitional instruments Transitional Act, Sched 3 Item 17, Sched 3 Item 18, and Sched 3 Item 19. Notification under dispute settling procedure of pre-reform certified agreement WR Act s.170LW
Other contraventions applications to deal with dispute FW Act, s.372 Applications to deal with a disputeb FW Act, s.240, s.505 and s.739
Termination of employment FW Act, s.394 and s.643 Award variation FW Act s.157, s.158 and s.160
Referral of AWAs to Commission WR Act, s.170VPF Agreementsc FW Act, s.185, s.210, ss.217–217A and ss.222–225
General protections disputes notification FW Act, s.365 and s.773 Suspension or termination of industrial action FW Act, Div 6.
Protected action ballot order FW Act s.437 applications, s.447 applications to vary, and s.448 to revoke
Orders relating to industrial actiond WR Act, s.496
Good faith bargaining order FW Act, s.229
(a) Excludes unfair dismissal or termination of employment. 
(b) From 2009–10, excl s.372 general protections notifications. 
(c) From 2009–10, excl applications to terminate individual agreement-based transitional instruments. 
(d) Only under WR Act.
Source:
2013–14 data taken from Fair Work Commission Annual Report 2013–14, Table K3 and Table K4. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 17, p. 43. 
2012–13 data taken from Fair Work Commission Annual Report 2012–13, Table H3 and Table H4. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 22, p. 41. 
2011–12 data taken from Fair Work Australia Annual Report 2011–12, Table 3, p.10 and Table H4, pp. 86–89. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 22, p. 29. 
2010–11 data taken from Fair Work Australia Annual Report 2010–11, Table 2, p. 10 and Table G5, pp. 80–83. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 8, p. 14.
2009–10 data taken from Fair Work Australia Annual Report 2009–10, Table 2, p. 10, and Table H5, pp. 73–77. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 9, p. 15. 
2008–09 data taken from AIRC Annual Report 2008–09, Table 1, p. 7. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 6, p. 12. 
*2007–08 data taken from AIRC Annual Report 2008–09, Table 1, p. 7. This is due to amended Full Bench case load analysis. For unfair dismissal appeals, see Table 7, p.1.