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Australian Workers Back-Paid $16 Million

23 February 2015 at 10:02 am
Xavier Smerdon
Almost 11,000 Australian workers have been back-paid more than $16 million following mediation, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Xavier Smerdon | 23 February 2015 at 10:02 am


Australian Workers Back-Paid $16 Million
23 February 2015 at 10:02 am

Almost 11,000 Australian workers have been back-paid more than $16 million following mediation, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman said that over the last two years its mediators had assisted thousands of employees and employers to resolve their workplace disputes voluntarily.

It said the $16 million had been paid out without the need for the Agency to formally intervene.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said a communication breakdown is often central to a workplace dispute.

“It is important employees receive their minimum lawful entitlements, but we are also conscious that most employers try to do the right thing and we are committed to helping them comply with workplace laws,” James said.

Small business, in particular, is finding the Fair Work Ombudsman’s mediation service a timely and efficient way of dealing with issues.

Mediation is helping us to build a culture of compliance throughout the community because it equips employers and employees with the information they need and empowers them to resolve issues in their workplace."

James said the use of mediators was cutting down on time and costs with the average session taking less than 90 minutes and a settlement often being reached on the day that mediation starts.

“It’s becoming an increasingly effective way for us to resolve workplace disputes quickly, efficiently and in a non-adversarial way,” she said.

“Participants appreciate the neutral approach from a professional mediator who is not an advocate for either party.

“The process gives people the opportunity to discuss their dispute and find mutually acceptable solutions themselves.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman first trialled mediation as means of resolving workplace disputes in 2009, and after encouraging results, adopted it as a core dispute resolution service in 2012.

In 2013 the Fair Work Ombudsman resolved 4625 matters through mediation, increasing to 6294 last year.

“Mediators help the parties focus on the relevant issues in order to reach an amicable outcome,” James said.

James said most matters being resolved by mediation are the result of requests from assistance from employees in the retail, accommodation and food services, construction and manufacturing industries.

She said the majority of matters are about underpayment of wages and penalty rates, non-payment of annual leave, wages in lieu of notice and redundancy.

“The goal is to arrive at an agreed resolution and terms that suit both parties,” she said.

“Sometimes, parties require written terms of settlement, but on other occasions, a verbal agreement is often all that’s needed.”

The Ombudsman provided a range of tips for a successful mediation session:

  • Address situations early, as unresolved conflict can be damaging for businesses.

  • The key to a successful mediation is good preparation.

  • Allow sufficient time and choose an appropriate location for the mediation so you’re not interrupted.

  • If decisions need to be made, involve someone with the authority to make them.

  • Understand that mediation is a confidential process and discussions in mediation remain confidential.

Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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