You are here:
The ACT Legislative Assembly recently passed the Courts (Fair Work and Work Safety) Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 (the Bill), clarifying the jurisdiction of the ACT Magistrates Court to hear eligible fair work matters under section 539 of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (the Fair Work Act).
Section 539 of the Fair Work Act grants jurisdiction over certain fair work matters to eligible State or Territory courts. Despite this, nationwide, it has been very rare for parties to use courts other than the Federal Court or Federal Circuit Court to bring disputes.
In the ACT, the Bill is intended to encourage parties to use the comparatively quick, easy and inexpensive processes offered by the ACT Magistrates Court to recover unpaid wages and entitlements.
The Bill amends the Magistrates Court Act 1930 (ACT) to:
The new small claims procedure detailed by the Bill applies to claims for under $20,000. The Court is not bound to apply the rules of evidence and proceedings can be conducted informally, without regard to legal forms or technicalities. Parties may only be represented by lawyers with the leave of the Court.
While the intention of the Bill is to primarily open an avenue for small claims to be resolved in a simpler manner, the ACT Magistrates Court still retains jurisdiction over fair work general claims, which would be conducted as a more formal proceeding.
Under section 12 of the Fair Work Act, eligible State or Territory courts means:
Under section 539, these courts already have a broad jurisdiction over a significant span of Fair Work Act civil remedy provisions, including, but not limited to, contraventions of core provisions relating to the National Employment Standards, modern awards, enterprise agreements or workplace determinations.
It is important to note that the Federal Court and Federal Circuit Court still maintain exclusive jurisdiction over provisions relating to general protections, industrial action and right of entry.
Despite the jurisdiction granted by section 539 to this range of State and Territory courts, it has been exceptionally rare for parties to take fair work claims to these courts.
The Bill is introduced with a view to encouraging a mechanism for quick and cost effective resolution of fair work disputes via the Industrial Court within the ACT Magistrates Court. With the passing of the ACT Bill, parties in other states may well become aware of the options available to them to commence proceedings in alternate jurisdictions.
Further information / assistance regarding the issues raised in this article is available from the authors, Emma Reilly, Partner and Rohan Reddy, Associate or your usual contact at Moray & Agnew.