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FWC ponders the ‘future of online proceedings’

Australia’s national employment tribunal, the Fair Work Commission (FWC), has flagged a possible permanent move to online conferences and hearings, citing ‘both positive and negative aspects’ to this format during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic the (FWC) moved to holding conferences and hearings online. This allowed our services to the Australian community to continue with minimal disruption,” the FWC says on its website.

“As the world gradually returns to a ‘new normal’, the Commission is considering what approach we should take to online proceedings into the future.”

The inform stakeholder discussions the FWC has published a discussion paper on “the future of online proceedings at the Commission”.

It says it will first gain feedback on users’ experiences with online hearings and conferences, before moving to creating a draft framework for use in the future (refer process below).

Share your views with AREEA

AREEA will submit to the FWC the views and experiences of its members with online conferences and hearings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We understand, as indicated by the FWC, that AREEA’s members have found this format to have both positive and negative aspects.

AREEA welcomes any and all member feedback on the discussion paper topics (note, abbreviated): 

  1. Are there any attributes that might impact on a person’s capacity to effectively participate in an online proceeding, in addition to those listed in s.578 of the Fair Work Act?
  2. Do you think that conducting proceedings online has any impact on procedural fairness?
  3. Do you think that conducting proceedings online affects how parties and witnesses perceive Commission processes?
  4. What has been your experience when you have observed or tried to observe a Commission proceeding online (i.e. where you were not involved in the matter)?
  5. Having regard to the benefits discussed above and any other relevant considerations, based on your experience of Commission proceedings being held online: what have been the benefits (if any) of this; and what have been the negative impacts (if any) of this?
  6. What guidance or instructions should be provided by the Commission to participants in online proceedings about interactions with other witnesses?
  7. What has been your experience of the use of interpreters in online proceedings and its impact on the conduct of the proceeding? How might the Commission facilitate the use of interpreter services in online proceedings?
  8. What has been your experience of accessing Court Books and other documents during online proceedings?
  9. What has been your experience of online proceedings at the Commission using Teams?
  10. Do you think that there are other types of proceedings or circumstances that could be online ‘by default’ because they are more likely to be appropriate to be conducted electronically?

Please share your views via [email protected] or phone 1800 627 771 for a confidential discussion with a workplace policy specialist.

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