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Fair Work: Commission or Ombudsman?

What’s the difference between the Fair Work Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman?

The Fair Work Ombudsman and the Fair Work Commission (previously called Fair Work Australia) are independent and separate government organisations.

While both organisations regulate Australia’s workplace relations system, they have different roles.

Fair Work Commission (FWC)

The Commission is the independent national workplace relations tribunal. It is responsible for maintaining a safety net of minimum wages and employment conditions, as well as a range of other workplace functions and regulation.

What the FWC does

  • helps employees and employers bargain in good faith and to make, vary or terminate enterprise agreements
  • deals with applications relating to ending employment including unfair dismissal, unlawful termination or general protections
  • deals with applications for an order to stop bullying or sexual harassment at work
  • provides mediation, conciliation and in some cases hold public tribunal hearings to resolve various individual and collective workplace disputes
  • plays a role in regulating unions and employer groups; including making orders about industrial action, including strikes, work bans and lock outs

What the FWC doesn’t do

  • provide advice on entitlements under an award or a registered agreement
  • enforce minimum pay and award entitlements.

Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO)

The Ombudsman helps employers and employees by providing advice, education and assistance on pay rates and workplace rights and obligations. It also enforces compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009, related legislation, awards and registered agreements.

What the FWO does

  • provides reliable and timely information about Australia’s workplace relations system
  • educates people about fair work practices, rights and obligations
  • resolves workplace issues by promoting and monitoring compliance with suspected breaches of workplace laws, awards and registered agreements
  • enforces workplace laws and seek penalties for breaches of workplace laws
  • enforces certain orders made by the Fair Work Commission.

What the FWO doesn’t do

  • investigate unfair dismissal and unlawful termination applications
  • make changes to the legislation, awards or registered agreements
  • investigate bullying and sexual harassment complaints.

Employers and employees will most often interact with FWO when they have a general enquiry around pay and work conditions. This can be done through the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.

If you’re an employer seeking help with a HR matter why not give Bare Bones Consulting a call? If you need expertise from the Fair Work Commission or Fair Work Ombudsman we can point you in the right direction or, if your enquiry relates to something outside the FWC/FWO remit, we’re happy to discuss simple, cost effective and smart HR ways to set yourself apart from your competitors. Best of both worlds from a single call. Nice!

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