About the small claims procedure
The small claims procedure, under the Fair Work Act 2009, gives employees the chance to take their own action to recover any overdue entitlements.
An employee can use the procedure to take their case to a state magistrates court or the Federal Circuit Court.
More on small claims procedures: Fair Work Act (Section 548)
Small claims benefits
Often, a small claims action, which focuses on relatively small amounts of money, is faster and more informal than other court proceedings.
The simplicity of the process means there is often no need for lawyers.
Who can take small claims actions?
If you're an employee (or former employee), you can take your own small claims action to recover overdue entitlements.
To do this, follow the 'small claims procedures' under the Fair Work Act 2009.
You can take small claims actions at any time within the statutory time limit (generally 6 years from when you were supposed to be paid the entitlement).
Limits on the amount you can recover
There are limits on the total amount you can recover through small claims.
You can’t recover more than $20,000 in entitlements.
If the entitlements were supposed to be paid before 1 July 2009, you can’t recover more than $20,000.
Note: If the entitlements are more than this, you can still make a claim for them using other court procedures.
Take a small claims action
Making a complaint & small claims
- You don't need to have made a complaint with us before starting a small claim.
- Also, if you've already made a complaint, you can still start a small claim.
If you've already made a complaint and are thinking of starting a small claims action, you should tell the Fair Work Inspector handling the complaint investigation as soon as possible.
The Fair Work Inspector might even suggest you take a small claims action after they investigate your complaint if they see it's the best way for you to recover any overdue entitlements.
The Fair Work Inspector will give you the information you need to take a small claims action. If the Fair Work Inspector has completed an investigation of your complaint, they may give you a report of the investigation and (where appropriate) the estimated calculations of your entitlements.
You can submit these documents to the court to support your small claims application.