The Fair Work Commission is a tribunal that hears evidence and decides if a dismissal is harsh, unjust or unreasonable.
The Commission does not investigate dismissals or begin prosecutions against employers. It only considers cases and evidence that are brought before it. The Commission is impartial and is not on anyone's side.
The only way for an unfair dismissal claim to commence is for the dismissed employee to lodge an Unfair Dismissal Application. Possible remedies under the Fair Work Act 2009 can include reinstatement or financial compensation.
The video on this page gives a summary of the steps involved in an unfair dismissal claim. Other videos in this virtual tour provide further details about each of those stages.
Unfair dismissal claims follow a set process.
Details of unfair dismissal proceedings are in the Commission’s Practice note: Unfair dismissal proceedings.
This is how unfair dismissal claims begin. The dismissed employee lodges an application using a special form from the Commission that details what happened and why they believe they were unfairly dismissed.
The employer responds to the application using the special response form, available from the Commission. It details what happened and why they believe the dismissal was fair and gives the employer the ability to make any objections to the application.
Conciliation is the first stage of resolving an unfair dismissal claim. An experienced conciliator brings the parties together in a conversation to explore if a settlement can be reached without needing a conference or hearing. Conciliations are very successful, with 4 out of 5 matters settling at this stage.
If the matter is not settled at conciliation, or if there is an objection, it goes to a conference or hearing, where a Member of the Commission hears evidence and decides if the dismissal was fair or unfair.
There are also interactive checklists for applicants and respondents on our website to help you prepare for your unfair dismissal conference or hearing.
Each of these videos will give you more information about each stage of the process:
Commission staff can tell you about the process but cannot give you any legal advice about how to prepare or run your particular case.
If you need help you should talk to your union (for employees), your industry association (for employers) or a legal service or lawyer.
Some Commission offices have independent duty lawyers available to give advice – ask the Unfair Dismissal Team in your state or territory for more information.