Case study – Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman

Improving an agency's digital records management capability


The Records Management Review (RMR) Project seeks to address gaps in the Fair Work Ombudsman’s (FWO’s) knowledge and application of records management policies and procedures, and to ensure that FWO’s digital systems comply with key records management obligations as set out in the National Archives of Australia’s (NAA’s) Digital Continuity 2020 Policy.

The project accompanies the FWO’s ongoing move from paper to digital record keeping systems.

Agency overview

The Fair Work Ombudsman is an independent statutory office. Our jurisdiction is set out in the Fair Work Act and our services are free to all workers and employers in Australia.

Our main role is to:

  • promote harmonious, productive and cooperative workplace relations
  • ensure compliance with Australian workplace laws
  • monitor certain 457 subclass visa arrangements.

Our services include:

  • a single point of contact for reliable and timely information about Australia's workplace relations system
  • educating people working in Australia about fair work practices, rights and obligations
  • assessing complaints or suspected breaches of workplace laws, awards and registered agreements
  • litigating in some circumstances to enforce workplace laws and deter people from doing wrong in the community
  • building strong and effective relationships with industry, unions and other stakeholders.

FWO has approximately 700 employees, and has offices in all capital cities and 18 regional locations across Australia.


The Records Management Review (RMR) Project started in August 2014. The RMR Project sought to, firstly, address gaps in FWO's knowledge of best practice digital records management, and secondly, determine the best approach to ensure the compliance of our current and future recordkeeping systems.

The Project involved a scoping of existing record management policies, procedures and requirements, together with an analysis of FWO's existing recordkeeping systems. This enabled FWO to better understand its digital records management and recordkeeping obligations, and consider the best ways to meet these requirements.

Project objectives

The Records Management Review Project (RMR) set out to improve the FWO's compliance with its digital records management obligations.

Stage 1 of the Project saw FWO consolidate its understanding of NAA's requirements and the subsequent development of criteria against which FWO's systems could be assessed for compliance.  This was the first such systems checklist developed by the FWO.

In Stage 2, the Project Team applied the criteria from Stage 1 to assess systems compliance against records management obligations.  This included scoping the respective health, compatibility and potential for upgradability of FWO's existing information storage systems.

The completion of these stages enabled FWO to better understand its digital records management obligations, and to determine preferred solutions to meeting mandatory requirements.

The project focus will shift to ensure that FWO's systems comply with records management standards and that FWO meets the requirements of NAA's Digital Continuity 2020 Policy.

Project execution

The following deliverables were completed as part of the RMR Project:

STAGE 1: August 2014 – February 2015

Analysis of FWO's Records Management Obligations and Metadata Obligations

The analysis synthesised applicable legislation, standards and Records Authorities. FWO also identified what information should be assigned to FWO's digital records to ensure they can be effectively managed.

Completed Baseline Check

An all staff survey baselined current levels of understanding of records management practices. The results of this survey will measure improvements the project initiatives bring and the focus of change management activities.

Updated Records Management Policies

FWO's Information and Records Management Policy was updated and a Keep, Destroy or Transfer Guideline was created to ensure compliance with NAA guidelines.

System Compliance Criteria Checklist

The checklist outlines requirements for a digital recordkeeping system to comply with FWO's records management obligations. The checklist was based on analysis and developed with reference to a number of legislative and regulatory materials including ISO 16175 and the Australian Government Recordkeeping Metadata Standard.

The System Compliance Checklist contained assessment criteria under two categories:

  • System Compliance Criteria (61 total criteria developed)
  • Metadata Criteria (74 total criteria developed)

A ranking system for system compliance and metadata criteria was employed, using the MoSCoW theory: must have, should have, could have, won't have.

While developing the Compliance Checklist, the Project Team received a draft Minimum Metadata Set from NAA which provided for three different system categories, based on the value, risks associated, number of record classes, and time that content must be retained. Each system was assigned into these categories, and the ranking system for the compliance criteria was adjusted for each category.

Each FWO system was then assessed against the system compliance and metadata criteria as either:

  • Fully Complies
  • Partially Complies
  • Does not comply.

In addition, a questionnaire was provided to the System Business Owner. The questionnaire gathered a business context from the Business Owner, to provide an understanding of the type of records in each system, the value of the records, and the security / stability of the system.

The Checklist was reviewed by NAA who were interested in using components of the assessment tool and methodology as best practice in implementing records management and metadata standards – a great endorsement for the work of the Team that also allows the work to have benefits beyond the FWO.

STAGE 2: April 2015 – January 2016

System Compliance Reports

17 recordkeeping systems were assessed. The Compliance Reports contain detailed analysis of the system context (including record types stored in the system and applicable disposal actions), compliance ratings, mitigating strategies for areas of non-compliance, and recommended actions to ensure critical records management processes are met.

Overall Report and Recommendations

Stage 2 culminated in a report that allows a comparative assessment of the systems, and what actions should be taken.

Project outcomes

After completing system reports and recommendations, it was found that FWO's records management standards should be improved.

To ensure sufficient levels of compliance, the following actions were recommended:

  1.  Information Management Plans (IMPs) be created for eight systems to ensure that records stored in the system are actively managed across their lifecycle.
  2. Minor system modification be made to five systems that store FWO's high value records, in conjunction with an IMP, to ensure compliance with mandatory compliance criteria.
  3. Any new or replacement business systems are assessed against the agreed standard of records management compliance, with areas of non-compliance proactively identified and addressed.
  4. FWO should establish a process to consider recordkeeping practices and potential improvements in efficiency and effectiveness through a strategic review. This review would consider the costs and benefits of an Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS) for the FWO and would be timed to take into account the findings from the EDRMS Feasibility Study being conducted by the Department of Finance.

Project impact

Standard established for records management compliance.

For the first time FWO has an established standard for digital records management compliance. This informed position can assess existing systems, and create records management requirements for new business systems.

Establishing best practice records management.

FWO has worked in consultation with NAA to create best practice and pragmatic records management. FWO also worked with external vendors in completing their system assessments, providing an educative role to internal and external stakeholders on the importance of effective records management.

Ensuring FWO's digital records are managed effectively.

Previously, FWO only had robust records management processes in relation to its paper files

There were few records management processes in place for any of FWO's digital recordkeeping systems.

Completing the compliance reports has formed an audit process for digital records held by FWO and shown obligations for managing content stored in our digital systems.

Clearer records management processes.

Once system compliance is established, more directed guidance can be provided to staff on digital recordkeeping responsibilities for each system, so they understand how to create, keep and save records in appropriate digital storage locations.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019