There are standards for the conduct and behaviour of all people attending a hearing or conference at the Fair Work Commission. The standards help the Commission to provide fair hearings for all parties.
Providing fair hearings involves allowing all parties to put their case forward, and to have their case determined impartially and according to law.
The Commission and all parties appearing before it, including representatives, have responsibilities to each other and in providing a fair hearing for all participants.
To help make sure your hearing or conference starts on time and goes smoothly there are a few things you should consider.
- Make sure you arrive for the hearing or conference early so that the proceedings can begin on time. Notify Commission staff when you arrive by approaching them in the hearing or conference room.
- If you are delayed for any reason it is important that you contact the Commission as early as possible to make sure a message is sent to the appropriate Commission staff.
- If you have a mobile phone or pager, make sure it is switched off in the hearing or conference room.
- Food and drink should not be brought into the hearing or conference room (unless medically necessary). Water is provided.
- Generally when you enter the hearing room and face the bench the applicant and their representatives sit on the right side of the room and the respondent and their representatives sit on the left. Only those who wish to be heard should sit at the bar table. If a party has a representative, the person giving the representative instructions may also sit at the table.
- At the beginning of the hearing, and if you leave or enter the hearing room while proceedings are underway, it is customary to bow to the coat of arms located behind the Member’s bench, by standing and inclining your head.
- In hearings you should stand when you are speaking to the Member and when questioning a witness.
- Do not interrupt the other party or the Commission Member when they are speaking.
- When you are speaking to a Commission Member refer to them by their title (eg Deputy President or Commissioner). Some Presidential Members are entitled to be addressed as ‘Your Honour’. Commission staff at the hearing or conference can let you know the proper form of address.
- Do not speak when a witness is taking an oath or an affirmation.
- There is no dress code, but most people attending the Commission dress neatly.
For parties & representatives
Parties and their representatives have obligations to behave appropriately to both the Commission and each other, and in a way that helps provide a fair hearing for all.
Parties and their representatives should:
- treat the Commission and other parties/representatives with courtesy and respect
- act honestly, and not knowingly give false or misleading information
- cooperate with other parties and the Commission to enable the just, efficient, timely and cost effective resolution of the issues in dispute
- act promptly, comply with Commission directions, and minimise delay
- take reasonable steps to make sure the costs incurred in connection with proceedings are reasonable and proportionate to the complexity and importance of the issues and amount in dispute, and
- where appropriate, take reasonable steps to resolve disputes by agreement or to minimise the number of issues in dispute.
For Commission Members
Members are responsible for ensuring that proceedings are fair and that parties are treated with courtesy and respect.
During proceedings, Members have a responsibility to:
- listen to evidence
- ask questions to clarify points that are unclear and to obtain information that is relevant to the considerations which the Member must take into account
- manage the behaviour of advocates to ensure that all parties are treated with courtesy and respect
- exclude irrelevant information
- discourage repetition, and
- deal with each matter on its merits, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Act.
Safety at proceedings
The Commission seeks to provide a safe environment for parties.
Due to the nature of some proceedings it is possible that some parties may feel nervous or self-conscious at the Commission especially where their case deals with sensitive issues. If a party has genuine concern for their safety they should advise the Commission before the hearing or conference so that appropriate steps can be taken.