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LawAccess NSW > Representing Yourself - LawAssist

Preparing for conciliation - Step by step guide

There are six steps to follow when preparing for conciliation at  the Fair Work Commission (the Commission):​

Step-by-step guide icon  Preparing for conciliation - Step by step guide

Step 1: Check the​ time and date for the conciliation

Check the time, date and location of your conciliation on the Notice of Listing. You should also check whether the conciliation is face to face or by telephone.

If there is a very good reason why you can't go to conciliation at that time, you should contact the Commission straight away. The contact details will be on the Notice of Listing.

It is important to be on time to your conciliation. If you are running late, you should call the Commission as soon as possible to let the Commission member conciliating your case know.

Make sure you plan to be at the Commission for some time. Conciliation may last anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours. You may need to arrange time off work, or child care.

Step 2: Read the empl​oyer's response

Make sure you read the employer's response to your application carefully. This will help you understand what the employer is saying about your application.

Read any documents the employer has attached. Compare them with your documents.

If you have not been sent a copy of the employer's response, contact the Commission.

If your employer says there is a problem with your application, for example, that it was made outside the time limit, you should get legal advice.

Step 3: Understand how the law applies to your case

Before the conciliation, you should make sure you understand how the law applies to your case.

Read about general ​protections

Read the materials on this website:

Read all the material that the Commission has sent to you.

Find out if you are owed any mo​​ney

You should also find out whether your employer owes you money, like:

  • payments you are entitled to if you weren't given notice of the dismissal (sometimes called payments "in lieu" of notice)
  • underpaid wages
  • leave payments or leave loading
  • long service leave or other statutory entitlements
  • redundancy payments (if your position was made redundant but you have made a general protections application because you think your employer breached laws about general protections by choosing you for redundancy).

At conciliation you can ask for these amounts to be paid to you. This could be part of a settlement agreement. The Commission cannot make orders about back-pay for underpaid wages or other entitlements you are owed but if your case goes to the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court, you can ask to be paid any money owed to you, as well as any orders you are asking for.

For help finding out if you are owed any money, see Finding employment law. If you need more help, you should get legal advice.

Get advice on Centrelink a​nd other payments

You should also make sure you get advice on any other issues that might affect your case, for example:

  • if you are on Centrelink benefits, you should get advice on whether any compensation your employer agrees to pay you will affect your benefits.
  • if you are on WorkCover, you should get advice on whether any compensation your employer agrees to pay you will affect your workers compensation payments.

Get legal ad​vice

You can call LawAccess NSW for legal information. LawAccess may also be able to refer you to a service that can give you ongoing assistance. For more information about services that may be able to help you, see Getting more help.

If you want a lawyer to represent you, you will need to get permission from the Commission. You will usually be given permission, unless the employer objects. If they object the Commission member may hear arguments from both of you and then make a decision.

You can arrange for a lawyer to represent you by:

  • the lawyer appearing at the conciliation
  • filing a Notice of Representative Commencing to Act (form F53).

You can talk to a lawyer about:

  • the strength of your case
  • what you might get if you went to the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court
  • whether you are owed any other amounts of money
  • the effect of any payments on your Centrelink or other payments.

If you can't arrange for a lawyer or union officer to represent you, you may be able to take a support person with you, for example, a family member or friend. You should call the contact number on your Notice of Listing and speak to someone at the Commission. You can ask if you are allowed to have a support person attend with you. This will help if you are angry or need to discuss any offers with someone. A support person will also help if you feel intimidated by your employer or their lawyer.

Step 4: Think abo​​ut what you want to end the dispute

Think about how you want to end the dispute. Do you want:

  • reinstatement (to get your job back)
  • compensation (money for the wages you have lost and/or pain and suffering)
  • a reference or statement of service
  • the end of your employment to be recorded as a resignation
  • something else, like an agreement between you and your employer not to say bad things about each other.

Think about:

  • what is realistic, for example, it might not be realistic to ask for reinstatement if you worked for a very small business
  • whether your employer owes you any amounts of money, for example for underpaid wages. Make sure you work out the dollar figure of what you are owed
  • whether you would be willing to go back to working for your employer (it can sometimes be difficult to go back to working together after a serious conflict)
  • what you could negotiate, for example, the amount of compensation you are willing to accept
  • whether you would agree to less to settle your case at conciliation and not have to go to a hearing
  • whether some things might be worth more to you than others, for example, if a statement of service helps you to get a new job quickly, this might be worth more to you than a few weeks wages.

Alert Icon At conciliation you can ask for any amounts your employer owes you to be paid to you. This could be part of a settlement agreement. For help finding out if you are owed any money, see Finding employment law. If you need more help, you should get legal advice.

For a handy tool to help you prepare your thoughts, see Preparing for conciliation - Worksheet.

Step 5: Ask for ​​an interpreter, if you need one

If you haven't already asked for an interpreter in your application, you should contact the Commission as soon as possible if you need one. The Commission will not charge you for organising the interpreter.

Don't wait too long to ask! It takes time to organise interpreters and, if you leave it too late, it may not be possible to organise an interpreter for you.

For more information, see Going to conciliation - Step by step guide.

Step 6: Organise your documents

You should gather any documents you want to take with you. Organise them so that you can quickly find any information you need during conciliation.

You will need copies of:

  • your application
  • the employer's response
  • your notes and/or completed Preparing for conciliation - Worksheet
  • your most recent pay slips
  • any letters or emails from your employer to you about your work performance and/or dismissal
  • any performance reviews
  • any other documents that might support your case.

It is a good idea to prepare a chronology. This is a list of everything that happened in date order from the earliest to the most recent. You should include:

  • the date you signed a contract (if you signed one)
  • the date you started work
  • the dates that you think any breaches of your workplace rights happened and the details of this
  • the date of any changes to your duties and/or your job, for example, if you were promoted
  • the dates of any performance meetings or complaints
  • the dates of any letters, emails or other correspondence you were given by your employer
  • the dates of any letters, emails or other correspondence you sent to your employer
  • the date you were told that you were (or would be) dismissed
  • dates of other events that you think were related to your dismissal. For example, any workplace incidents or disagreements with your employer.

You have already explained your complaint in your application form. Take the time to read this again and see if there is anything you have left out or anything else you think you want to explain in more detail. If you have made a mistake in your application, you should get legal advice. You should prepare a summary of why you applied to the Commission (which will include the reasons listed in your application and anything else you want to explain). Write it down. You can read from this document when the Commission member asks you to talk about why you think your employer broke laws about general protections when they dismissed you.

If you have not included dates of conversations, meetings or emails, make a note of these now.

For an example of a chronology, see Sample chronology.

For answers to commonly asked questions, see Going to the Fair Work Commission - Frequently Asked Questions.