Complaints & Appeals

Due to the Department of Employment’s failure to effectively regulate the industry, simply making a complaint to the DoE – although still a necessary step – just isn’t enough. It is increasingly up to you, the unemployed worker, to regulate the (mis)conduct of job agencies and Centrelink, and hold them to account.

Mistreatment or misconduct by your job agency

If your job agency is mistreating you, we strongly recommend that you write a letter to your job agent to a) resolve the issue, and b) hold them accountable.

The AUWU has found that writing emails is the best way for unemployed workers to communicate with their job agencies as they are unable use bullying tactics to derail the issue. It also provides a written record of your issue which you can use later.

For this email to be a success, you need to determine exactly how your job agency has broken the deed and guidelines.

A few common examples include

  • Forcing you to attend more than one appointment per month (for jobactive and Community Development Program agencies) or one appointment per fortnight (for DES agencies)
  • Forcing you to do Work for the Dole when you are ineligible
  • Denying you your right to ‘Reasonable Notice’ or a ‘Reasonable Excuse’
  • Denying you your right to be provided with basic employment services.

If you would like more information on your rights, have a look at our Rights Booklet

If you don’t have your case managers email already, contact your job agency by phone and ask them for the best email address to contact your case manager.

If you cannot get a straight answer, the best approach might be to email reception and put your case managers name in the subject line.

Before sending your letter, be sure to CC the following addresses:

advocacy@unemployedworkersunion.com (for our records)
senator.cash@aph.gov.au (to inform Minister of Employment)
nationalcustomerserviceline@employment.gov.au (to inform complaints line)
ed.husic.mp@aph.gov.au (to inform the Shadow Minister for Employment Services)
senator.siewert@aph.gov.au (to inform the Greens)

We also encourage you to CC your job agency’s CEO and other top brass. You can find a comprehensive list of their addresses here.

Now you are ready to make a splash with your letter! Lastly, please forward any responses to advocacy@unemployedworkersunion.com

Dealing with a Centrelink penalty

Under social security law, Centrelink makes all compliance decisions. Your job agent only sends a recommendation to Centrelink that a financial penalty should be imposed – Centrelink is the one that implements it. For this reason, all appeals/reviews must be made through an Authorised Review Officer (ARO) at Centrelink. The ARO reverses over one-third of Centrelink decisions.

You can request a review by:

  • Calling Centrelink;
  • completing a Review of Decision Form (SS351)
  • or visiting a service centre.

We also urge you to contact your local MP, and anyone else who could exert pressure on Centrelink to rule in your favour.

If the ARO makes an unfavourable decison, and you disagree with it, apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for a review of the decision by calling 1800 228 333. This application must be made within 13 weeks of the initial decision. There are two levels of AAT review. The AAT reverses around one quarter of Centrelink decisions.
If you are not satisfied with the way your case has been handled, call 1300 132 468 and lodge a formal complaint with Centrelink. If you are not satisfied with how this complaint was handled, call the Commonwealth Ombudsman on 1800 362 072

Dealing with a payment suspension

If you believe that your job agency either did not make an attempt to contact you to determine if you had a ‘reasonable excuse’ or unfairly rejected your excuse, you should challenge the penalty immediately by taking the following steps:

Write to your job agency case manager (using our template) informing them that: you believe you’ve been treated unfairly; that they have broken the deed; that you’ll be lodging an official complaint with the Department of Employment. Also be sure to mention the AUWU and your local MP.

Additionally, you can request to be assigned a different job agent, or to transfer to a different agency (see section 1.11 of the Rights Booklet).

NB: If you do not wish to make a complaint and want to have your payment reinstated, call your job agent to organise a re-engagement appointment. It’s important to submit a written complaint as it provides a record, which you can use later. Documenting your mistreatment with accurate dates and names ensures that any future appeal you undertake will be given the best possible chance of success.

If your actions in Step 1 are unsuccessful, and you believe your job agent has treated you unfairly, you have the right to go over their head and ask Centrelink to resume payments. To do this, call Centrelink’s Participation Team on 1300 306 325.
It is important that you contact the Department of Employment National Customer Line on 1800 805 260 to officially lodge your complaint. Inform the phone operator in clear language the nature of your complaint, how your job agency broke the deed, and request that the Department investigate the matter.

Lodging a complaint with the Department can be difficult. The AUWU has received cases where the phone operator refused to lodge the complaint. If this happens, inform the Department that it is your right to have your complaint processed.

When talking to the Department make sure to ask them for the reference number for the call and the name of the phone operator. This will be useful later if you need to take further steps.

If the Department processes the complaint, they will contact the job agency and inform them of the complaint and ask them for a response. The Department may send you some material in the mail giving them permission to contact the job agency on your behalf.

If Centrelink or the Department of Employment refuse to process your appeal, or fail to investigate your appeal adequately, contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman on 1300 362 072.
It is the Ombudsman’s role to ensure Government departments effectively process reviews. Make sure you get a reference number for your appeal from Centrelink as the Ombudsman will ask for it.
If Centrelink, the Department of Employment and the Ombudsman have all failed to adequately deal with your complaint, contact your local Welfare Rights Centre, Community Legal Centre or Legal Aid Centre for legal advice. These services may not be able to assist with your case directly, but they will be able to offer some free advice. In relation to discrimination and personal injury issues, contact Turner Freeman law firm on 13 43 63.

Share your experience with us

Whether your appeal is successful or otherwise, do write and tell us about your experience, and send along any relevant documentation. Depending on the outcome, we can either post your success story to inspire others, or expose misconduct by your job agency and or Centrelink (but we’ll do so only with your consent).

Success Stories

Appointments reduced!
 
During my first appointment, my job agent insisted that I must attend fortnightly appointments. It’s Skills Plus policy, she explained, and I could either accept it or go elsewhere.
 
Afterwards, I wrote a letter using this template, sent it to my job agent from an AUWU email address, and made sure to CC the CEO of Skills Plus (Ben Vasiliou at the time of writing). I got a reply from the CEO, explaining that he’d spoken with my job agent and her boss, and I should raise the issue at my next appointment. I did so, and found that my job agent had changed her tune completely. Apparently, she is ‘perfectly happy’ to reduce my appointments to one per month; it’s just that everyone else – she claimed – is glad to attend fortnightly. That may be the case, but how can she know what people would prefer, if they’re not given an option? No doubt she didn’t ask them, and simply told them what she told me: you must attend fortnightly appointments or find another job agency.
 

– Igor 20/7/17

Skills Plus paid for my fancy threads!
 
A sales company invited me to attend an interview, and asked that I wear ‘business attire,’ (read fancy clothes) which of course I did not own. I informed my job agent of the situation, mentioned the $300 Employment Fund I should have access to for just such a situation, and she agreed to reimburse me (provided I sent copies of my receipts). So I went on a last minute shopping spree, and bought a business shirt, tie, trousers, dress shoes, and got a haircut to boot. All in all I spent $209.50.
 
A month went by and I still hadn’t been reimbursed. I complained to my job agent at our next appointment, and she implied the Department of Employment was holding up the show, and that she’d sort it out. Another two weeks went by and still nothing, so I called the Department of Employment who advised me to contact the Skills Plus site manager. I did so, and CC’ed my job agent. I got an immediate response from her, and $209.50 appeared in my account a few days later (deposited by Skills Plus, not the Department of Employment).
 
The moral is: complain early, and in writing.
 

– Igor 22/9/17