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LawAccess NSW > Representing Yourself

Preparing for conciliation - Step by step guide

There are seven steps you need to take to prepare for a conciliation at the Fair Work Commission (the Commission):

Hint icon Your matter will normally be listed for telephone conciliation (unless you have asked to have an interpreter). If there is a reason why a telephone conciliation is not suitable in your situation, you should contact the Commission as soon as possible. It may be possible to have a face to face conciliation.

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

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

If there is a very good reason why you cannot be available at that time, contact the Commission straight away. The contact details will be on the Notice of Listing.

Arrange a quiet, private place to be during the conciliation. You may need to arrange time off work, or arrange childcare.

Hint icon  If your phone uses batteries, make sure that it is fully charged before the conciliation so that your phone can stay on for the whole call. Conciliation will last for around 90 minutes.

Step 2: Give your c​ontact telephone numbers to the Fair Work Commission

The Notice of Listing will ask you to give your contact telephone numbers to the Commission. Decide which telephone number you want to use and make sure you give this to the Commission. You can contact the Commission by using the contact details on the Notice of Listing.

Step 3: Ask for an inte​​rpreter, 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. Don't wait to 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. If the Commission organises an interpreter, your conciliation will usually be held face to face rather than over the telephone.

Step 4: Read the employ​​er's response carefully

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 Fair Work Commission.

If your employer has claimed there is a problem with your application (for example, that it was made outside the time limit) you should get legal advice​ about this.

Step 5: 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 unfair dis​​missal

Read the materials on this website:

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

Find out if you are owe​​d any money

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 employer says your position has been made redundant).

At conciliation you can ask for these amounts to be paid to you. This could be part of a settlement agreement. You could not get an order for these amounts if your unfair dismissal case goes to a hearing (you would have to start a second case to get unpaid wages). For help finding out if you are owed any money, see Finding employment law. If you need more help, you should get legal advice.

Icon - alert  If you make an unfair dismissal application to the Commission, the Commission can only make orders about the dismissal. The Commission cannot make orders about back-pay for underpaid wages or other entitlements you are owed.

Get advice on Centrelink and othe​r 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 advice and arrange ​​representation

You should get legal advice. You may be able to get a lawyer from Legal Aid or a Community Legal Centre to help you for free. You can talk to a solicitor about:

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

If you want a lawyer to represent you at the conciliation, you should arrange this as soon as possible. If you are thinking about paying for a lawyer you will need to decide whether this is the right decision for you, considering the amount of money you might get from settling your case.

If you cannot arrange for a solicitor or union officer to speak for you, it is possible to have a family member or friend with you to support you while you speak. Make sure you arrange this in plenty of time before the date of the conciliation.

Hint icon  If you are using a friend or family member as a support person, it is a good idea not to use someone that may be an important witness if your case goes ahead to a hearing.

Step 6: 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)
  • a reference or statement of service
  • the termination of your employment to be recorded as a resignation
  • something else, like an agreement that you and the employer will not say bad things about each other.

Some things to consider:

  • Compensation is usually worked out as a number of weeks wages. The maximum the Commission can order at hearing is 26 weeks wages. If you want to ask for compensation, you should decide how many weeks wages you are asking for and be able to explain why you think you should get that much.
  • Make sure you know your usual weekly gross wages (before tax). If you get paid fortnightly, you will need to divide your wage in half to get the weekly amount. If you regularly get extra allowances or payments and you want to claim these as well, make sure you have a record of these amounts.
  • If your employer says that your position has been made redundant, you should check whether you have been paid redundancy payments and any other entitlements.
  • If your employer owes you other amounts of money, for example for underpaid wages, make sure you work out the dollar figure of what you are owed.
  • You would not be able to get an order for a reference if you went to a hearing. If you want a reference or statement of service you should write down what you would like to be in it so you can explain what you want to the employer at the conciliation.

For each option, think about whether it is realistic. For example, it might not be realistic to ask for reinstatement if you worked for a very small business.

Think about:

  • whether you would agree to less to settle your case at conciliation without going to hearing
  • 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)
  • 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.

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

Step 7: Organise​​ your documents

You should put all the documents about your case together. You should have these with you during the conciliation so that you can quickly find any information or documents you need.

You will need:

  • Your notes and/or completed Preparing for conciliation - Worksheet
  • A copy of your application
  • A copy of the employer's response
  • Copies of your most recent pay slips
  • A chronology (if you prepared one)
  • Letters or emails from your employer to you about your work performance and/or dismissal
  • Any other documents that might support your case.

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 conciliator asks you to talk about why you think you were unfairly dismissed.​

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

A chronology is a list of everything that happened in date order. For information on how to prepare one, see How to write a chronology. To see what a chronology could look like, see Sample chronology​.

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

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