Changes to FWO complaint handling process

by Stephanie Zillman02 May 2013

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has announced changes to its complaint resolution processes, which is says will get complaints resolved sooner.

Fair Work inspectors will now routinely provide employers with a written copy of employee complaints at the start of the complaint resolution process. Previously only summarised complaints from employees were provided to employers. Acting Fair Work Ombudsman, Michael Campbell, said the change is part of the agency’s drive to encourage a co-operative approach to resolving disputes.

Campbell said that complaints are often the result of poor communication between employee and employer or a lack of information. He acknowledged that it can be quite confronting for an employer to be the subject of a formal complaint by a worker. Campbell said it is the aim of FWO to be seen as a neutral third party in disputes and that it is their role to assist both employers and employees. “If we can win the confidence of both employers and employees at the start of contact with the Fair Work Ombudsman, we are hopeful that even more disputes will be resolved directly between the parties. Allowing employers to see the full complaint lodged by an employee is an important step towards that goal,” Campbell said.

“Of course, where issues aren’t resolved, our inspectors can conduct investigations and ultimately we can take matters to court to seek compliance with workplace laws,” he added.

The Fair Work Ombudsman receives about 25,000 complaints every year. About three-quarters of these are resolved voluntarily by employers, without the need for escalation to a formal investigation.

Voluntary resolution involves Fair Work inspectors educating employers and employees about workplace laws that apply to their situation and, if necessary, facilitating voluntary rectification of issues and helping employers to put processes in place to ensure they are following relevant laws in the future.

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