A conference is generally an informal proceeding conducted by a Member of the Commission or by a staff conciliator. Conferences generally involve the Commission assisting parties to discuss and resolve issues via conciliation or mediation that do not involve more formal procedures such as testing evidence under oath.
Hearings are more formal proceedings that are held by Members of the Commission who have a range of powers under the Fair Work Act 2009 to decide certain issues and make decisions about disputes. Hearings are more 'court like' and can involve sworn submissions of evidence, witness examination, exhibits etc.
The Fair Work Commission generally conducts hearings and conferences from Monday to Friday at its premises in each Australian capital city. Hearings and conference are also convened in regional areas. The Commission also conducts large number of conferences via phone and teleconference.
If required, proceedings may be held outside of normal office hours, on public holidays, in regional centres or in a workplace. Many conferences are held by phone or videoconference to make attendance easier for parties. Dispute about unfair dismissal and general protections involving dismissal are generally conducted by phone conference in the first instance.
Room locations for matters being heard the next working day are published on our website at about 5pm (EST) each day. The room location list for private conferences is available at the Commission's premises. Arrangements for all hearings and conferences including telephone, video and regional-based proceeding are outlined in a 'notice of listing' which is the information sent to inform the parties about the hearing or conference.
There is no requirement for you to be represented by another person when you appear in proceedings at the Commission. You will need the permission of the Commission Member dealing with your case if you wish to be represented by a lawyer or paid agent, unless that person is:
If you decide to represent yourself in proceedings it will be easier if you are well prepared. You may consider bringing one or more people with you for support. There is generally no objection to you doing so, although in private conferences you should be prepared to tell the Commission Member or staff conciliator dealing with your case why you would like the presence of such people.
There is no cost to you if you need an interpreter at a Commission hearing or conference, but you must ask the Commission to provide an interpreter either:
Before you attend a conference or hearing at the Commission you should check the hearings and conferences list for your state or territory.
The list identifies all the cases for a particular day, together with the Commission Members dealing with them, the times of the hearings and conferences and the location details – the floor and the hearing room number.
The list is published in some capital city newspapers and on the Commission’s website each day. Printed copies of the list can also be found at Commission public counters, near the hearing rooms or, in some Commission premises, on the building's ground floor.
If your hearing or conference is in a regional courthouse you may have to ask for information at their inquiry counter.
The following rules relate to the acceptable use of mobile devices during Commission conferences and hearings.
Mobile devices can include mobile phones, smart phones and tablets.
Commission hearings are held in public in most circumstances, though there are some exceptions (see s.593(3) of the Act). Members of the Commission are responsible for making sure that proceedings are fair and that parties are treated with courtesy and respect. During proceedings, Members have a responsibility to:
An important part of providing a fair hearing is the duty to provide appropriate help to parties in the presentation of their case, in particular self-represented parties. This means that in some circumstances a Member has to intervene, both for the benefit of a self-represented party and more generally.
The help provided to self-represented parties by a Member may, depending on the circumstances, include:
Despite this obligation, the help a Member can properly give to a self-represented party is limited. The Member must balance the interests of the parties who represent themselves with the need to:
All parties have the right to a fair and efficient hearing.
During a hearing the parties will each be given the opportunity to put their point of view forward. It is important to be prepared.
Most proceedings, except for conferences, are recorded and the recordings may be transcribed. Parties may request an audio file of the recording to be provided to them, or may buy a copy of the transcript.
Commission hearings are audio recorded, and many hearings are transcribed.
Transcripts that are publicly available can be found in the Transcripts section of the Commission's website. Requests for transcript of proceedings that are not published on our website may be made to the Commission. A fee applies for this service and is to be paid by the person making the request.
As part of the Commission’s Future Directions initiatives, parties to a matter (or their nominated representative) may request access to an audio recording of the proceedings. For more information see the Access to audio recordings of Commission hearings page on our website.
An audio recording of a Commission hearing does not constitute an official record of the proceedings.