The Fair Work Act provides a small claims mechanism for employees to pursue unpaid entitlements with a value of up to $20,000. This small claims process is quicker and more informal than regular court proceedings and also cheaper, given that the parties do not have to engage a lawyer. Indeed, permission is required to be represented by a lawyer in such a matter.
The court's approach in dealing with small claims aims for a quick and simple process with minimal expense to the parties. Matters are usually resolved with a single hearing.
While I always encourage clients to seek professional advice when matters are particularly complex or risky, most employers would be able to navigate the process successfully once they are aware of how things work and the court's requirements in terms of procedures and documentation.
The Fair Work Ombudsman has developed a Small Caims Guide, which provides the required information in a straightforward way. As well as the printed guide, the FWO has created a series of videos to explain the procedure.
Fortunately, most disputes are able to be resolved without going to court. But if you are confronted with a small claims matter, the FWO Guide should prove to be a useful resource.
- Fair Work Ombudsman: Taking legal action in the small claims court (includes videos)
- Fair Work Ombudsman: Small Claims Guide (PDF)
- Fair Work Act 2009: Section 548 - Plaintiff may choose small claims procedure