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Fair Work turns to ‘nudge theory’ to overhaul its processes

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
13 March 2020 2 minute readShare
Fair Work Commission

Following complaints from employers of anti-business bias, the Fair Work Commission has undertaken its first behavioural insights project, aimed to improve the overall compliance with unfair dismissal and enterprise agreement lodgement requirements.

The Fair Work Commission published the outcomes of its project on Wednesday in a report titled Promoting Compliance Through Behavioural Insights, which looks at how behavioural insights techniques could be applied to reduce costs and barriers to access for employers and employees.

Behavioural insights — also known as “nudge theory” — draws on cognitive science, psychology and behavioural economics to understand the unconscious biases and motivations that influence how people think, make decisions and behave, with a goal to help people make timely and informed decisions.


The president of the Fair Work Commission, Justice Iain Ross, said applying behavioural insights to the commission’s public information and processes could help reduce the anxiety, stress and confusion that parties sometimes experienced when navigating the legal process in unfair dismissal cases.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for employees and employers dealing with these applications to access our services and understand what they need to do,” Mr Ross said.


“Providing targeted and accessible information to a party when they need it, and are able to absorb it, can assist their understanding of a process and lead to better decision-making, which improves their ability to genuinely access justice.

“This usually results in both higher levels of compliance and reduced emotional burden on the parties.”

Upgrades expected

The report sets out recommendations tailored to improve unfair dismissal applications, including refining the online lodgement experience and creating tools to ensure parties clearly understand lodgement time frames and the implications of exceeding them.

On the back of these, the commission announced on Tuesday it will implement several recommendations over the coming months.



These include simplifying the employer form lodged with an enterprise agreement application; expanding the step-by-step guide and checklist for making a single-enterprise agreement; restructuring the information on its website by “chunking” it into a series of small steps; and conducting user experience research to inform the structure of the information provided.

“Behavioural insights techniques can be applied to our public information to make it clearer and easier for agreement makers to follow the steps required to make and lodge a compliant agreement application,” Mr Ross said.

Edward Bradon, head of policy for Asia-Pacific at the Behavioural Insights Team that headed the project, explained that changing behaviour is as much about the system as the individual.

“Simple nudges that take into account how people actually behave can make a big difference. It’s great to see the commission taking a lead and making it straightforward for their users to get it right first time,” Mr Bradon said.

The behavioural insights project is an initiative of the commission’s What’s Next strategy which focuses on improving access and reducing complexity for its users.

Over the next 12 months, the commission said it will continue to expand the application of behavioural insights in its service design and delivery.

Fair Work turns to ‘nudge theory’ to overhaul its processes
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Maja Garaca Djurdjevic
Maja Garaca Djurdjevic

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of My Business. 

Maja has a decade-long career in journalism across finance, business and politics. Now a well-versed reporter in the SME and accounting arena, prior to joining Momentum Media, Maja reported for several established news outlets in Southeast Europe, scrutinising key processes in post-conflict societies and enabling citizens to influence decision-making.

You can email Maja on [email protected] 

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