The FWC may request you attend a hearing, conciliation conference, mediation or other type of dispute resolution. It is important to understand the type of proceeding you are attending and the protocols applicable to it.
A hearing is generally open to the public and is in a court-like setting, with people seated in formal positions. Evidence is given from a witness box and parties are sworn in one at a time as they are called to give evidence. Parties can cross-examine witnesses and provide closing arguments.
A conference is generally not open to the public. It may still be held in a hearing room but usually with the parties seated around the same table. The FWC is a highly formal tribunal where addressing the Commission Member correctly, advocating your case concisely and proper etiquette are all important proper etiquette are all important.
Understand the laws relating to your claim
- What is the matter you are arguing? Is it an unfair dismissal? Is it a general protections claim? Is it a union or EA dispute?
- Read the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and understand which sections apply to your matter. This will be important to ensure your evidence and case arguments are relevant to the legislative requirements
Preparation is essential
- Check the hearings and conferences list for your state/territory to ensure that you know the time and location of the hearing, including the floor and court/room number
- As these procedures are usually based on an examination of evidence, ensure you concisely collate the relevant documentation and materials as soon as a claim is received. Do not bring irrelevant information to a hearing or repeat the same information to the Commissioner
- Prepare copies of relevant cases and documents to hand up at the hearing
- Create your own document library and ‘case summary’ that cross-references your submissions and relevant documents thoroughly
Perform a critical review
- Ensure you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your case and the applicant’s case. This will allow you to best guide your arguments, your cross-examination, and highlight the evidence that most strongly supports your submissions.
Consider your support options
- Call the Victorian Chamber Advice Line (03 8662 5222) for immediate support and advice around a claim or the risk of a claim
- Consider engaging representation through the Victorian Chamber
- When representing yourself, the FWC allows one or more support people in the hearing