THE Fair Work Commission has responded to recent criticism of its performance by unveiling a new plan for improving access and reducing complexity for users, particularly small businesses and self-represented parties to unfair dismissal proceedings.
Setting out changes the FWC will implement in the next 12 months to improve services and meet the changing needs of those who use the Commission’s services, the What’s Next: the Fair Work Commission’s plan to improve access and reduce complexity for our users plans to build on the Future Directions change program.
The five key pillars of the new plan focus on:
- Providing additional support to self-represented users, particularly at the early stage of dismissal cases.
- Partnering with experts in ‘behavioural insights’.
- A new case management system, which will have benefits for ‘one shotters’ and repeat players.
- A significant expansion in access to free legal advice, through the expansion of the Workplace Advice Service
- Developing short summaries of key modern awards and improving agreement processing times.
The FWC will provide more support to self-represented employees and employers – particularly small businesses – who are unfamiliar with the Fair Work Act and the Commission’s processes.
It will also draw on technological advances and innovative public sector thinking in areas such as behavioural insights to deliver the plan.
“The principle at the centre of What’s Next is a simple one: listening to, and meeting, the needs of those who use our services,” The President of the Commission, Justice Iain Ross, said.
“We are determined to ensure the services we provide are efficient, effective and responsive to the expectations of the Australian community.”
The release of the plan comes after AMMA welcomed new research backing reform at the FWC.
Shining a light on the performance of the FWC, the research recommended improvements to the unfair dismissal processes, encouraged greater consistency in discretionary decisions and called for simplifying the awards system reflecting the longstanding positions of employers in the resources and energy sector.
Fair Work system easier for small and family business: Laundy
Minister for Small and Family Business, the Workplace and Deregulation Craig Laundy said the What’s Next plan would benefit small and family business owners who don’t have the same resources as bigger businesses.
“Navigating the Fair Work system can be challenging and there are big penalties if the laws are not followed correctly,” he said.
“I applaud the FWC’s efforts to better understand and meet the needs of the users it serves. It’s a real business-like approach to put the customer at the centre of its thinking, making it easier to access services and remove complexity in the system.”
The FWC has also expand its provision of free legal assistance to unrepresented individuals and small business employers through the launch of its Workplace Advice Service.
The expansion commenced in Melbourne and Sydney at the start of August and will be rolled out nationally in coming months.
Business calls on proper legislative reform
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry welcomed the Fair Work Commission’s commitment to better support small business but said it is no substitute for meaningful legislative reform.
Australian Chamber CEO, James Pearson, said the President’s efforts to help small businesses navigate the unfair dismissal process and early and more personal contact with the Commission, but pointed out much more needs to be done.
“Australia’s workplace relations laws (the Fair Work Act) assume all employers are large, sophisticated, well-resourced and unionised,” he said.
“This is simply not the case for most Australian businesses.
“Almost 60% of small business owners are paid $50,000 or less, well below the average of what Australians earn.
“Changing processes, information and administration at the Fair Work Commission can only fix part of the problem.”
ACCI said laws need to change to make the Fair Work Act simpler and better balance the interests of smaller employers and their employees.
There needs to be clearer, more appropriate options for small businesses, and the reason for dismissing an employee, not whether the exact process was followed, should matter most.
ACCI also said liabilities need to change, including compensation and awards better reflecting the capacities of smaller businesses, which have far more in common with lower paid employees than major corporations.