Small claims

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 or territory magistrates' court or the Federal Circuit Court.

See section 548 of the Fair Work Act 2009 External link icon for more information about small claims procedures.

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 unless a higher amount is prescribed by the Fair Work Regulations 2009 External link icon.

Note: If the entitlements are more than this, you can still make a claim for them using other court procedures.

Taking small claims action

To find out how to take a small claims action, contact the Federal Circuit Court External link icon or the magistrates’ court in your state or territory.

Making a complaint & small claims

  • You don't need to have made a complaint with us before starting a small claim.
  • 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 your complaint as soon as possible.

The Fair Work Inspector might suggest you take a small claims action after they assess your complaint if they see that it's the best way for you to recover any overdue entitlements.

The Fair Work Inspector can explain the small claims process and give you information to help you start a small claims action.

It’s important to prepare and submit documents to support your case, including calculations of money that you think is owed to you. Our finding the right pay page has a list of tools you can use to calculate your minimum entitlements and prepare calculations. You should submit all documents (including calculations) to the court to support your small claims application.

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Page last updated: 09 Sep 2013