The Fair Work Commission (FWC) has released its Annual Report for 2013/14 (Report), which includes statistics for the FWC’s new anti-bullying jurisdiction, unfair dismissals and industrial action determinations.
This alert sets out statistics and information on the FWC as contained in the Report, including the time it takes for applications to be finalised and the outcomes employers can expect from the FWC.
Numbers and trends
During 2013/14 a number of legislative changes affecting the jurisdiction of the FWC came into effect, such as the new anti-bullying jurisdiction, which began on 1 January 2014, and other consequential changes. Overall, the FWC noted that there had not been an influx of new applications and their case load remained steady in comparison with previous years.
In the 2013/14 financial year, the FWC:
- received a total of 37,066 applications
- conducted 19,620 hearings and conferences, and
- made and published 13,302 decisions, orders and determinations.
There was an increase of 1% in applications, 3.3% in hearings and conferences and 14% in orders and determinations made from the previous financial year.
The FWC also noted that the timeframe between lodgment and allocation had decreased in the 2013/14 financial year with 97% of applications processed within two days of receipt.
In the first six months of the jurisdiction, the FWC:
- received more than 100,000 unique website hits regarding anti-bullying
- dealt with more than 3,500 telephone enquiries, and
- processed only 343 applications.
270 anti-bullying conferences and hearings occurred during the period 1 January to 30 June 2014 with 21 anti-bullying matters finalised by a decision.
The Report highlighted that about 60 applications for stop bullying orders were received per month by the FWC, which was markedly lower than the predicted 70 applications per week.
The Report highlighted that the anti-bullying jurisdiction had been a success and had produced, “better outcomes in terms of maintaining constructive workable ongoing workplace relationships”.
In 2013/14, a total of 14,797 unfair dismissal applications were received in Australia indicating a slight decrease in the number of applications compared to the 2012/13 financial year. 79% of these applications settled at conciliation.
In the 2013/14 financial year, a total of 6,754 enterprise approval applications were lodged. Specifically there were:
- 5,945 applications for single enterprise agreements
- 749 applications for greenfields agreements, and
- 60 applications for multi-enterprise agreements.
Overall applications to approve enterprise agreements declined by 4.7% in 2013/14 making it the second consecutive year of decline following a 17.3% fall in 2012/13.
Orders relating to industrial action
The FWC received a total of 989 applications relating to industrial action in 2013/14. This represents a decrease of 22% from the 2012/13 year, and a decrease of 30% from the 2011/12 year.
It is also worth noting that the FWC received 627 applications for protected ballot orders during the past year, a decrease of 31% on the previous reporting period.
What this means for employers
The overall use of the FWC jurisdiction remains consistent, however, the anticipated influx of anti-bullying applications has not reached predicted levels. Whilst the general interest in this area is reflected in the number of enquiries and internet traffic, this has not translated into applications. This is a positive for employers, but also a reminder that such issues are front of mind with employees.
The use of enterprise agreements by employers again declined for the second consecutive year, which indicates a slight move away from this industrial instrument as a means of determining employee entitlements.
The reduction in industrial action during the past two years, whilst welcome for employers, is most likely reflective of the general downturn in the economy.