FWC President announces new Paid Agents Working Group to tackle lack of regulation

Following the recent FWC decision in Howell v Elite Elevators Corporation Pty Ltd  [2024] FWC 206, the FWC President has announced a new Paid Agents Working Group to address the unregulated conduct of paid agents.

The case is also a cautionary tale for Respondents to exercise caution when paying settlement money to a party other than the Applicant, with the FWC finding that the Respondent did not comply with the terms of settlement when it paid the settlement monies to Employee Dismissals.

 FWC President Hatcher was critical of the conduct of paid agent ‘Employee Dismissals’ with respect to the follow matters:

Unauthorized Discontinuance: The issue of filing a discontinuance notice without proper authorization from Samuel Howell.

Misleading Conduct: Concerns about misleading Howell regarding the representation and handling of the case.

Fee Arrangement Issues: Problems with the fee arrangement between Howell and Employee Dismissals.

Communication Breakdown: Inadequate communication with Howell, especially regarding key decisions and actions.

General Conduct in Other Matters: The Fair Work Commission’s observations about the problematic conduct of Employee Dismissals in 30 other FWC cases conducted by Employee Dismissals.

The Commission found that Employee Dismissals engaged in misleading and unethical conduct in their representation of Mr. Howell. Furthermore, the FWC noted that this conduct was not in Mr. Howell’s best interests​​.

While the FWC’s decision primarily focuses on the specific actions of Employee Dismissals in this case, it also reflects the broader regulatory concern of the Commission regarding the ethical and professional conduct of paid agents.

The FWC’s role includes ensuring that parties in employment disputes are represented in a manner that is both ethical and in accordance with the legal and procedural framework of the Fair Work Act. To that end, the case was closely followed by the Commission’s announcement about the establishment of a Paid Agents Working Group, designed to identify and guide the implementation of measures aimed improving the conduct and standards of paid agents to align with the expectation of lawyers in the same circumstances.