Help resolving workplace issues
Do you need help to resolve a workplace issue? Find out what we can help with, how we help and where to go if we can't help. Follow our step-by-step guide to resolving workplace issues:
You can also watch our Compliance policy video to see the different ways we help employers and employees resolve their workplace issues.
Step 1: Find out what we can help with
What we can help with
We can help resolve workplace issues for those covered by the Fair Work system.
This includes issues arising from:
- pay – eg. penalty rates, allowances and loadings
- leave – eg. annual, sick, maternity and parental leave
- ending employment – eg. notice, final pay and redundancy
- discrimination and other workplace protections
- sham contracting
- union membership and right of entry
- anything else covered by an award, enterprise agreement or other registered agreement.
Who we can help
We offer information, resources and dispute resolution assistance, for employees and employers covered by the Fair Work system.
Employees of sole traders or partnerships in WA are not covered by the Fair Work system and should contact the state Department of Commerce for assistance with workplace relations issues.
When we can help
There are time limits on when we can help. We can help resolve:
- general workplace issues that happened up to 6 years ago
- workplace discrimination issues that happened after 1 July 2009.
Where else to find help
If we can't help, it's likely someone else can.
For help with issues relating to:
- superannuation and tax (including group certificates / PAYG tax summaries), contact the Australian Tax Office
- employment contracts, seek independent legal advice
- bullying and harassment, contact:
- discrimination, contact your state anti-discrimination or equal opportunity organisation
If you're an employee and you've lost your job, contact the Fair Work Commission first if you think you were sacked because of:
- a reason that is harsh, unjust or unreasonable
- another protected right.
You have 21 days from the day you were sacked to lodge an application with the Commission. Check the information at the Commission website to find out if you can apply for:
Step 2: Check the law
Often disputes happen because employers and employees don't know what the minimum pay rates and conditions are. An effective way to resolve disputes is simply to find out what the law is and follow it.
Check the laws about:
Can't find what you're looking for? Contact us.
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Step 3: Working through the issue
We encourage employees and employers to self-resolve issues in their workplace where possible.
Often issues arise because:
- employers and employees don't know what the law is
- communication has broken down.
Most awards, enterprise agreements and other registered agreements have a dispute resolution procedure for resolving issues at work. You should follow this process before you make a formal request to us for help. Check for your dispute resolution process:
Some businesses also have formal or set processes for dealing with disputes or issues in the workplace. If your workplace does you should follow this process as well.
Find out more about setting up dispute resolution processes in the workplace with our Effective dispute resolution best practice guide.
If an employee has left an employer, you should still try to resolve the issues between yourselves before making a formal request to us for help.
We have a range of tools and resources designed to help you resolve workplace issues that you can access on our website at any time, including:
- our online learning centre, which has video-based interactive courses to teach employers and employees skills and strategies to help them at work
- our Pay Calculator and our Leave Calculator, to help you calculate pay rates and leave entitlements
- My account, which allows users to save tailored information that's specific to them
- Fact sheets and templates that assist businesses and their employees.
Are you in the hairdressing industry and need help and advice about ending employment? Try our new tool, Hairdressing Assist to find out all you need to know about how to end employment.
Step 4: Resolving the issue in the workplace
Talk about it
There are practical steps you can take to make difficult workplace conversations easier and more effective:
- make time to talk to your employer or employee without interruptions
- be prepared:
- know the issues you want to discuss
- bring any relevant paperwork, eg. pay slips or bank statements
- suggest ways the issue could be resolved
- listen, keep an open mind and consider all points of view
- learn more strategies and tips about having difficult conversations at work by taking a short course at our Online learning centre .
Put it in writing
After, or as part of the steps above, it's a good idea to put things in writing. It's a good way to set out the issues or outline any courses of action that are agreed on. If you put something in writing that needs an answer, make sure you give enough time to respond.
Small business dispute resolution
To make it easier for small business to resolve workplace and other business issues, the Australian Small Business Commissioner provides information to help businesses better understand and manage their dispute, including:
- an explanation of the five phases of dispute resolution
- a checklist to better understand how the dispute started and what the issues really are
- tips for putting concerns in writing, including an example letter.
Visit the Australian Small Business Commissioner's website to find out more.
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Step 5: Requesting further assistance
If you're unable to resolve the issue yourself, you can ask us for help.
Where we assist, we may help you by:
- giving information and advice to help both the employee and employer understand their workplace rights and responsibilities
- offering a range of dispute resolution processes, including mediation, to help you come to an agreement to resolve the issues.
What you need to know about our assistance:
- we are neutral, which means we don't represent employers or employees. Our aim is to help everyone resolve the issues and follow the law.
- in deciding how we will act, we consider the seriousness of the alleged conduct and the circumstances of the parties, as well as the practical issues involved in resolving the matter.
- our processes are voluntary. We can't force employers and employees to take any specific action, including pay money. Only a court can make binding orders.
If you feel that our resolution process isn't right for you, you may consider taking your own legal action to resolve your workplace issue. Visit our Working with you to resolve workplace issues page for more information about our resolution processes and taking your own legal action, and read our Compliance and enforcement policy to see how we ensure compliance with workplace laws.
Download and fill out the dispute form
To ask for our help, you'll need to download, complete and send us a workplace dispute form.
Before you send it to us:
- read the information on the form carefully
- complete every section of the dispute form and sign it. Unsigned or incomplete forms may be returned to you
- attach copies of any relevant paperwork (avoid sending originals if possible) to your form including:
- pay slips
- PAYG summaries (payment summaries / group certificates)
- time sheets
- letters, emails or other written communication
- tax file declaration forms
- written contracts
- relevant employer policies and forms
- diary records.
If you don't have any paperwork you can still send your dispute form to us.
Download the Workplace dispute form (DOCX 750KB) (PDF 259.7KB).
Send the dispute form to us
Send the form, with copies of any relevant paperwork to:
Fair Work Ombudsman
GPO Box 2567
Adelaide SA 5001
What happens next
We will contact you after we receive the dispute form. Read our Working with you to resolve workplace issues section so you know what to expect.
If you have any questions before we contact you, you can call us on 13 13 94.
If you wish to withdraw your request for assistance, you will need to let us know in writing. To withdraw your request for assistance email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to:
Fair Work Ombudsman
GPO Box 2567
Adelaide SA 5001
Please note that the email address above is for withdrawing your request for assistance only. For all other enquiries visit the Contact us page.
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Best practice tip
To avoid workplace issues occurring employers and employees should:
- be aware of their rights and responsibilities under Australian workplace laws
- talk about any concerns as soon as possible
- keep good records about any decisions made.
Download our Effective dispute resolution best practice guide to help you resolve workplace issues.
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