Conciliation is a voluntary process to help an employer and employee resolve an unfair dismissal dispute. It is an informal method of resolving the unfair dismissal claim that is generally conducted by telephone and can avoid the need for a formal conference or hearing.
Because conciliations are generally conducted by telephone parties do not need to attend a Fair Work Commission office.
In a conciliation, each party can negotiate in an informal manner and explore the possibility of reaching an agreed settlement. In a conciliation any outcome is possible provided both parties agree to it. But in a hearing the outcomes are limited and strictly controlled by law.
Parties are under no obligation to reach a settlement.
Unrepresented parties are usually offered a 3-day cooling off period following conciliation to decide if they wish to opt out of any agreed settlement.
Conciliations are generally conducted by Commission staff who are trained and experienced in conciliation, workplace relations and unfair dismissal law. In some situations, a Commission member will conduct a conciliation.
Conciliators are independent and impartial—they are not on the 'side' of employees or employers. The conciliator's job is to:
The conciliator does not:
If a telephone conciliation before a staff conciliator of the Commission does not resolve the matter, the parties can request that a second conciliation be conducted by a Commission member before proceeding to a more formal conference or hearing.
There is no requirement for a party to be represented by another person at conciliation, but a party may be represented if they prefer. A representative can be a lawyer, an advocate, a union official (for employees) or industry body official (for employers), or even a friend.
No formal permission from the Commission needs to be granted to be represented during conciliation by a conciliator who is a Commission staff member. However, if the conciliation is conducted by a member of the Commission and the representative is a lawyer or paid agent, then permission to appear must be sought.
A party may also consider having a family member or friend with them for support.