FWA’s plan to be quicker and better

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FWA’s plan to be quicker and better

The success of time limits for the handing down of FWA decisions has encouraged the tribunal to aim for new improvements to its efficiency and effectiveness over the next 12 months.

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The success of time limits for the handing down of FWA decisions has encouraged the tribunal to aim for new improvements to its efficiency and effectiveness over the next 12 months.

The President of Fair Work Australia, Justice Iain Ross, yesterday launched Future Directions, which sets out 25 initiatives that the Tribunal will deliver in the next 12 months, based on four themes:
  1. promoting fairness and improving access
  2. efficiency and innovation
  3. accountability
  4. productivity and engaging with industry.
One of the main aims is to improve access and fairness for all parties by:
  • the introduction of a ‘Fair Hearing’ practice note setting out the obligations of Members, parties and their representatives in relation to the provision of a fair hearing
  • better provision of information, in a variety of forms, in relation to unfair dismissal applications to assist self-represented parties and respondent employers
  • engaging with providers of pro bono legal services to extend the availability of legal advice to self-represented parties.
‘The information and assistance provided by the Tribunal to parties, particularly self-represented parties, is an important part of providing access to justice,’ Justice Ross said.

‘For those unfamiliar with the Tribunal’s processes and how a hearing is conducted, the experience can be daunting. The information and assistance provided can be a significant benefit to parties.’

That assistance could include:
  • explaining the relevant legislative provisions
  • identifying the issues that are central to the determination of the particular proceedings
  • asking a party questions designed to elicit relevant information
  • posing questions to witnesses ‘to an appropriate extent’.
Limit to assistance
 
The plan recognises there is a limit to the assistance that should be extended to unrepresented parties in the interests of balance. It is also necessary ensure hearings are conducted efficiently and costs are kept to a minimum.

The introduction of timeliness benchmarks for the delivery of reserved decisions and approval of agreements has already made FWA more efficient.

The benchmark provides that 90% of all reserved decisions are to be handed down within eight weeks of the last hearing day (or receipt of the last written submission). All reserved decisions are to be handed down within 12 weeks.

For approving agreements there are three key benchmarks:
  1. 50% of all applications are to be finalised within three weeks
  2. 90% of all applications are to be finalised within eight weeks 
  3. 100% of all applications are to be finalised within 12 weeks.
Justice Ross said that in the period 1 July to 30 September 2012:
  • 97.4% of all reserved decisions were handed down within eight weeks, as against the performance benchmark of 90% (in the 12 months to 30 June 2012, only 72.2% of reserved decisions were handed down within eight weeks).
  • 78.9% of all agreement approvals applications were determined within three weeks of lodgement, as against the performance benchmark of 50% (in the 12 months to 30 June 2012 only 58% of agreement approval applications were dealt with within three weeks of lodgement).
The Tribunal intends to publish its performance against these benchmarks on its website in November 2012.

Other planned initiatives under Future Directions include:
  • publishing more information on unfair dismissal and general protections applications in booklet and multi-media formats
  • developing a ‘virtual tour’ of FWA on its website
  • reducing the number of forms and making them easier to use
  • facilitating access to ‘pro bono’ legal services, including the possible expansion of a current pilot with the Employment Law Centre of WA
  • upgrading the website
  • converting all application forms to online formats by mid-2013
  • releasing a new smartphone application to provide access to daily hearing lists
  • trialling SMS alerts for hearings and conferences.

 

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