A hearing has formal procedures. A Commission Member directs the hearing and will ask the parties to make their case. We have rules for behaviour during the hearing.
On this page:
The start of the hearing
The Associate will come into the room before the hearing starts. You should introduce yourself to them as soon as you arrive so they can take down your name.
You should ask the Associate how to address the Member hearing your case. Members have different titles or forms of address, such as Deputy President, Commissioner or ‘Your Honour’.
You can ask the Associate any other questions about the procedures for your hearing.
When everyone is in the hearing room the Associate will:
- knock on the back door
- ask for silence
- say the hearing is in session.
The Member goes to their chair, faces the room and bows. Everyone in the room bows to the Coat of Arms behind the Member.
The Member sits and then everyone else in the room can sit down. At this point, the hearing is 'in session'.
When a hearing is 'in session'
During a hearing the Member allows each party to put their point-of-view forward. They may ask you to:
- make submissions based on the evidence
- explain how you think the relevant award, agreement or part of the Fair Work Act applies
- call your witnesses so they can give evidence
- cross-examine the other side's witnesses to test the other side's evidence.
When a witness enters the witness box, the Associate will ‘swear them in'. This means they promise to tell the truth. There are 2 ways to do this:
- An oath: a promise to tell the truth made on a religious text, such as the Bible or Koran. We can swear an oath for all major religions.
- An affirmation: a promise to tell the truth that does not refer to any religious belief.
The Member has a responsibility to consider the facts of each case ('the merits'). They refer to the relevant parts of the Fair Work Act.
In hearing the case, it is up to the Member to make decisions about process. They will:
- listen to and consider the evidence
- ask questions when something is unclear
- decide whether to accept ('admit') evidence
- encourage an efficient use of time.
During a hearing the Member may allow the parties to go into a private meeting. This allows them to discuss the issues in a more informal way that is ‘off the record’.
The Member will make sure everyone behaves in a way that is polite and respectful.
Standards of behaviour in the hearing room
You should stand when you speak to the Member or when you ask a witness questions. Use the Member’s correct title when you address them.
Do not speak when a witness is taking an oath or an affirmation.
You should also:
- dress neatly
- put your mobile devices on silent
- not bring food and drink unless you have a medical reason (water is in the room).
If you need to leave the hearing room, you should bow to the Coat of Arms behind the Member and avoid turning your back. You should also bow when you come back in.
What happens when a hearing finishes
A hearing can take anywhere from several hours to several days. The number of witnesses and range of issues to cover influences how long it takes.
At the end of the hearing the Commission Member will leave the room. Usually they do not give their decision on the same day as the hearing. This means their decision is ‘reserved’ and they will deliver it at a later time.
But the Member might:
- make an interim decision
- give directions during the hearing
- give their final decision orally.
Contact the Member’s Associate after the hearing if you:
- are unsure about the outcome
- don’t understand the directions.