The way the employment services industry is structured, if you want to expose your job agency for breaking its obligations under the job active deed your only choice is to lodge an official complaint. As this can be a long and drawn out process which is made deliberately convoluted and frustrating by the Government, the AUWU have compiled five steps for you to follow below if your complaint is to have a good chance of success:
Step One: Write a Letter to Your Job Agency
Send an email or letter to your job agency case manager informing them that you believe you have been treated unfairly and this form of mistreatment is in breach of the jobactive deed – a contract the job agencies signed with the Government and are beholden to.Inform your job agency that you would like them to show you an exert of the jobactive deed or a job active guideline which shows that the job agency have acted legally.
If the job agency fail to do this, inform them that you will not be participating in any activity or penalty they are threatening you with and will be lodging an official complaint.
It is likely your job agency will not reply, but this letter is important as it provides a record of your complaint which you can use later.
Documenting your mistreatment and appeal with accurate dates and names is very important if your complaint is going to sting. A good example of this can be found here.
Step Two: Lodging a Complaint with the Department of Employment
Now is the time to call the Department of Employment National Customer Line on 1800 805 260 to officially lodge your complaint. Inform the phone operator in clear language what the nature of your complaint is and that you request the matter be investigated by the Department.
The AUWU have heard cases where the phone operator refuses to lodge the complaint. If this happens, inform them that it is your right to have your complaint processed.
When they process your complaint ask them for the reference number for the call and be sure to take down the name of the phone operator.
We also encourage our members to email through their complaint to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can do this instead of calling. By email your complaint, you have a paper trail and you can also send your complaint to us and we can publicises it (anonymously if you wish) throughout our networks. If you believe your job agency is defrauding the government, also send your complaint to email@example.com.
At this point, what is most likely to happen is that the Department seek to contact the job agency and inform them of the complaint. The Department may send you something in the mail giving them permission to contact the job agency on your behalf, drawing out this process considerably. Hopefully, when the Department of Employment finally contact the job agency they force the agency to uphold their obligations.
However, in most cases the job agency denies they have done anything wrong and disagrees with the unemployed worker’s version of events. Here, the Department generally takes the job agency’s word over the unemployed worker.
If this happens to you, the Department will most likely inform you that they are ‘satisfied with the job agency’s response’ and will be taking no further action. Generally, the only way for you to see the job agency’s response, generally, is through a Freedom of Information Request which can take weeks.
Step Three: Appeal Against your Penalty Through Centrelink
If at this stage your job agency decides to carry through with its threat and imposes a penalty (suspension, cancelation, ‘No Show No Pay’ penalty), it is important to contact Centrelink and begin the appeals process.
As Centrelink are by law the ones making compliance decisions, you must go through them if you want to appeal (Please note: Centrelink are under the Department of Human Services, so you cannot make this appeal through the Department of Employment).
Appealing against a Centrelink decision can be done a few ways:
Firstly, you can call the Newstart line on 132 850 and inform them that you would like to appeal against a decision. You can also ask them for a full explanation of why they made the decision they did. See here for more details.
Secondly, you can write to them and let them know you would like to appeal against a decision. Centrelink’s SS351 decision review form (available here) is a helpful way to make sure you include all relevant information. Send the letter to your local service centre.
Thirdly, you can go into your local Centrelink office and inform them personally.
It is important to make you contact Centrelink within 13 weeks of the decision being made. If you contact them later than this, they will only give you back pay from your date of appeal.
After this, your appeal will be reviewed by an Authorised Review Officer. The Review Officer will contact you when they finish reviewing the decision. If you do not agree with the decision of the Authorised Review Officer, you should request another review through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). They can be contacted on 1800 228 333. For more information about the AAT, visit their website here. Appeals through the AAT can go all the way up to Federal Court.
Step Four: Contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman
If you believe the Department of Employment or Centrelink have failed to properly process or investigate your complaint, contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman on 1300 362 072 and they will look into the matter for you.
This is an important step, especially in relation to Department of Employment, as there are many cases where the Department of Employment are unwilling to properly investigate a complaint.
Step Five: Post Your Story on the AUWU’s Forum!
To apply extra pressure on Centrelink and your job agency, please post your story on our forum (anonymously if you wish) about what happened to you. This is an important step as not only will it apply extra pressure on Centrelink, it will also help other unemployed workers and the general public understand the reality of unemployment in Australia.