Guide to Conciliation - Text Version of video
Camera shows Helen the Conciliation Officer in her office.
Helen – "I am Helen and I am a Conciliation Officer. The ACCS, the Accident Compensation Conciliation Service is here as a first step to assist injured workers and their WorkCover Agent or employer to resolve disputes involving workers compensation claims. Conciliation is a free service. Our role is to bring the parties together to encourage discussion, to help them see each other's point of view and assist them in reaching agreement. We are independent. We don't take sides. Our aim is to avoid the dispute being referred to a Court unnecessarily, so it is up to everybody to try to resolve the dispute before it gets to that level. We are not a Court and I am not a Judge. Conciliation Officers have limited powers to make decisions. We don't like to talk about winning or losing, it's about trying to find outcomes that everyone can accept. Unfortunately sometimes that's not always possible. We can't always reach an agreement on the day but we try our best. The system is designed to reduce the stress and the time and the costs for everyone. A matter usually can't be referred to court unless you have come here first and done your best to resolve the dispute. So if an agreement really can't be reached, we can provide you with the document that allows you to take it to Court. I actually have a Conciliation conference coming up now."
Camera shows Jim the worker and his wife Sophie, walking down the street towards the ACCS.
Jim – "Yeah this is my first time at the Conciliation service. I had a few issues that we couldn't resolve with the WorkCover Agent and my employer so here we are. When I sent off that Request for Conciliation Form, I thought it would all happen pretty quickly but it actually took a number of weeks to get the conference organised, which was good because when I got the letter with the appointment it gave me enough time to get my paper work in order, especially the medical reports."
Jim asks his wife Sophie – "Did you bring that first one, the one from the GP?"
Sophie shows Jim a document – Jim – "That's the one."
Sophie – "So I have got copies of all the documents for our reference."
Jim – "That was the first thing I had to do, fill in a consent form and get that sent off to all my doctors."
Sophie – "and the physio."
Jim – "Physio is a doctor Soph."
Jim and Sophie laugh.
Jim – "All the medical reports got sent off to the Conciliation people before the conference."
Sophie – "So we have got copies for them, copies for us just in case and all the paper work they have sent us."
Jim – "And my notes. I made some notes, just questions I wanted to ask, that sort of thing. So far the hardest bit has been parking."
Jim and Sophie laugh.
Jim – "They said the conference could go for an hour and a half so we got a 2 hour park. So got the park, got the paper work, we are all set."
Sophie – "Got me too."
Jim – "Got Soph too, which is good. I get nervous so they said I could have a support person. They actually said that we could have 2 support people. Soph, as a personal support and a worker's assistant who's meeting us in there."
Sophie – "And the ACCS website (www.conciliation.vic.gov.au) really helps, that was good wasn't it, and also the brochure that came with the DVD."
Jim – "Yeah it answered a few questions, it helped actually, so onwards and upwards."
Camera shows Helen outside the Conference Room.
Helen – "We might have multiple meetings going on in these rooms at any time, so we try to keep it as informal as possible. We have tea and coffee if people want it. We try to ensure that people are comfortable. It can be stressful but conciliation is about an open dialogue between all the parties involved and in the majority of cases the dispute is resolved here. We also stop for breaks if people need it. Sometimes it can get a bit emotional for people or if someone has been injured they may not be able to sit still for very long. Either way we are here to make it as easy as we can. It's usually pretty straight forward as long as everyone comes prepared. We send out letters to the workers that set out exactly what they need to have completed and returned to us before they come in as well as anything they need to bring along on the day. They can also call us here at the Conciliation Service is they have any questions about the process before they come in. They won't always speak to a Conciliation Officer assigned to their case but there are plenty of people here who can give them assistance. We can arrange interpreters for anyone, Employers or Workers; they just need to advise us of their needs well in advance of the Conference Date. We deal with a wide range of nationalities here so if someone needs help communicating we can make that happen. If someone has requested an interpreter, it is always a good idea to arrive about 15 minutes early so everyone has a chance to meet before the conference. And of course, we also expect that everyone arrives prepared to listen to the other side. So ideally the party should reach their own resolution."
Camera shows Jim and Sophie sitting in the ACCS Reception Area.
Jim – "We have to meet Anna, she's my assistant. I have got Soph here as a personal support which is good, but they reckon it is a good idea to have someone here who knows how the conciliation process works as well. So you can choose someone from your union, but if you are not in a union, then WorkCover Assist if you want."
Sophie – "And apparently if you want to have a few support people, you just have to make sure everyone is okay with that. I guess so they don't end up with a roomful of people."
Jim – "They even said that we could have our own lawyer here if we wanted, as long as everyone else agreed."
Sophie – "Hopefully we will get it sorted out without any lawyers at all."
Jim – "Yeah, hopefully."
Helen voice over, while we see Helen talking to Simon the WorkCover Agent.
Helen – "We often know the Agents and the worker's assistant because we all deal with each other on a regular basis. Of course everyone stays professional and we remain impartial, that is our job."
Camera shows Simon shaking hands with Bruce the Employer.
Simon – "Hi, how's it going?"
Simon – "I am Simon, and I am from your WorkCover Agent."
Bruce – "Simon, Bruce, did I talk to you about the claim?"
Simon – "That would have been someone from my office, I just deal with Conciliation. Thanks for coming in early and it allows us to have a quick chat before the conference."
Bruce – "Yeah, so how involved am I in this, do I just let you do the talking?"
Simon – "Well I am here to explain WorkCover's decision but you should be prepared to put your case forward, everyone's included in the discussion."
Helen talking but in the background Jim and Sophie are meeting the assistant.
Helen – "Looks like Jim has met his assistant. That's good. Well it's almost time to gather the parties and do the introductions."
Camera shows Bruce outside the Conference Room.
Bruce – "Look we've got different opinions sure, that's why we are here but I don't see it as a contest, I see it as a chance to raise the issues and hopefully get everything sorted. I have to go in now."
Camera shows all the parties are entering the Conference Room.
Camera shows all parties in the Conference Room sitting at the Conference table.
Helen – "Okay, let me just start by introducing all the parties involved and reminding everyone of the purpose of our meeting today and what my role is. My role is not to judge, I can't decide who's right or wrong, it is to help the discussions so that some kind of resolution can be reached. Now we are here to discuss the decision notice and all parties will get a chance to put their thoughts and perspectives forward so try not to interrupt even if you hear something you don't agree with, just hold on until it's your turn. We will also probably break at some stage for some private discussions. If you do need a break, just ask for one and I'll need mobile phones turned off, not silent, off ok. At the end of the conciliation process today, there are a number of different outcomes that we can expect. My aim is that we reach an agreement through our discussions. If we can't there are a number of other possible outcomes. The dispute can go to Court. I can refer the matter to the Medical Panel or we can adjourn to a later date. If the matter does go before the Medical Panel, that decision is final, okay? Let's start by introducing ourselves and we will begin with the decision notice. My name is Helen and I am the Conciliation Officer."
Helen voice over while looking at the Conference Room and observing discussions in the Conference Room.
Helen – "Whilst it is important that everyone is ready to listen, it's also very important that both parties are prepared to communicate as well. They can't just sit back and let their Agent or assistant talk for them. This is their opportunity to put forward their point of view. Some people like to write things down to help them remember."
Camera shows Helen talking in the Conference Room.
Helen – "Alright so at this point Jim, I would like to ask you to respond to what you have heard so far."
Jim – "I have got my version of what happened here so."
Sophie finds the document for Jim.
Jim – "On the day of the incident ..."
Helen voice over while looking at Jim talking.
Helen – "And of course we are here to discuss both sides so the employer and their Agent will also be expected to contribute."
Bruce talking in the Conference Room.
Bruce – "I respect Jim's point of view and that there was some confusion about what steps were taken and when but that doesn't change our initial stance."
Helen voice over while looking at Bruce.
Helen – "And hopefully once everyone has put forward their thoughts we can work on finding a resolution."
Camera shows Jim and Sophie standing outside the Conference Room.
Jim – "That was okay, not as scary as I thought it might have been. It was a good thing that we got that paperwork sorted early, otherwise it might have been much harder."
Sophie – "And now we know that the next steps are which is good and we got the expenses sorted out too."
Jim – "Is that all the costs so far?"
Sophie – "No that's just for attending today's conciliation, so they gave us some reimbursement forms and we will get them filled out and they just said give them a call if we have got any questions."
Jim – "So all in all I guess not too bad. As long as you prepared then you are starting with your best foot forward aren't you."
Camera shows Helen in her Office.
Helen – "Jim was a little nervous to start with but that's natural and he was fine once the meeting got started. He had all his papers and certificates in order which really helps the process. Plus he had both kinds of support. He had personal support from his wife and expert support from the worker's assistant. Getting the extra guidance from someone who's familiar with the system and the process really makes all the difference. Not everything can be resolved in one session and things don't always go the way people hope, but as long as people have read the information that we have sent them, ask any questions that they need to and come prepared, then we are in a pretty good starting position. I actually have another conference to prepare for, so I better go, bye."
For further information, including assistance for both employers and workers, call 9940 1111 or 1800 635 960, or visit www.conciliation.vic.gov.au