Dispute resolution

Conflicts and disputes can happen in any business. Some disputes may be related to people’s working conditions or pay. It is important to have processes in place for resolving disputes – see the Working Together section for more information on identifying and resolving conflict.

If the employer is a national system employer and the dispute is related to employment contracts, the National Employment Standards or workplace agreements, the federal industrial laws provide a model dispute resolution procedure in the Regulations.

Visit Fair Work Commission website for a copy of the Model Term for Dealing with Disputes for Enterprise Agreements and the Fair Work Ombudsman has a Best Practice Guide: Effective dispute resolution.

Thankfully, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when conflict happens in the workplace. All modern awards (including the Pastoral Award 2010) lay out the general steps required to resolve disputes.

  1. Try to resolve it first within the workplace. For example, the employee should discuss the matter with their direct supervisor. During this phase, the employee should continue to perform their usual work.
  2.  If the conflict is not resolved in step one, the matter should be discussed further with more senior management.
  3. If the conflict remains unresolved, you will need to appoint an independent person to help you. The first step for this person is to try to help both sides reach an agreement. Many workplaces disputes are settled in this way.
  4. The mediator must be neutral, make no proposals, and offer no advice. His or her role is to help the parties talk through the issue and find a mutually agreed solution.
  5. When everything else has failed, the parties can (together or individually) refer the matter to the Fair Work Commission or some other independent person to settle the dispute.

The model dispute resolution procedure requires the employee to continue to work as usual and for employees to comply with any reasonable directions by the employer while the dispute is being resolved unless there are reasonable concerns about occupational health and safety and there is no other work available.

Managing disputes

Managing disputes can be complex. For unresolved or difficult disputes obtain legal advice