The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has launched three new initiatives to assist self-represented parties who appear before the Commission.
Announced by Fair Work Commission President, Justice Iain Ross AO, the changes will be of assistance to those appearing before the commission and specifically will include:
A pro bono legal scheme to provide independent legal advice to self-represented parties involved in unfair dismissal jurisdictional hearings. The assistance will be provided to both applicants and respondents. The pilot is being undertaken in Victoria, with plans to extend to NSW in June.
The introduction of an Unfair Dismissal Benchbook containing plain English summaries of the key principles of unfair dismissal case law and how these have been applied in Commission decisions. A portion of this benchbook has been released for public comment, with a final copy to be available in June 2013.
The introduction of an Appeals Practice Note to promote consistent administrative processes when dealing with appeals, including the option of determining an appeal ‘on the papers’ without the need for a hearing.
The new initiatives were announced in a Future Directions strategy update. Justice Ross commented that given the increasing number of self-represented applicants appearing before the Commission, more needed to be done to assist these parties. “The parties to individual disputes are often unfamiliar with the Commission’s procedures and the relevant legislative provisions. We have an obligation to explain these matters to self-represented parties,” Justice Ross said.