If you’re lucky, you won’t have dealt with the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO). It’s the misleadingly named Commonwealth agency responsible for investigating and prosecuting employers who fail to comply with the equally-misnamed Fair Work laws.

The FWO is, however, also responsible for ‘educating’ employers about their legal obligations. Up until now, they have fulfilled this function by operating a (very poor in my view) ‘Fair Work Info Line’ and providing downloadable guides and fact sheets.

But someone (a whole team perhaps?) has had a brainwave (perhaps during some ‘blue sky thinking’?) and the FWO has now proudly launched an online quiz that employers can take (during all their abundant free time of course) to help them discover just how much they don’t know about the world’s most hopelessly complex employment laws.

Imaginative questions cover topics such as the National Employment Standards, Modern Awards, and dismissals. Helpfully divided into 15 minute sections, employers can now lose the will to live in just a quarter of an hour – hooray! Yes, your tax dollars hard at work.

It’s just a shame the questions create more confusion than they resolve. Take the one about notice and probationary periods. The answer helpfully informs us that ‘probationary periods’ usually last between 3 and 6 months and give the employer an opportunity to decide if the employee is suitable.

Sounds good, right?

The only problem is that ‘probationary periods’ don’t actually exist under the Fair Work Act 2009. The Act instead imposes a ‘minimum employment period’ that employees must complete before they become protected from so-called ‘unfair dismissal’. This is either 6 or 12 months depending on the size of the business, not 3 or 6 months. Confused? I’m sure you’re not alone.

If I’d written the quiz, I would have included questions which accurately reflect the way the Fair Work laws work in practice, such as:

1. Bob discovers his employee is stealing from the till. Should he:

a) do nothing because the union will make his life a misery

b) talk to the employee and then await receipt of their claim for workplace bullying

c) dismiss them and set aside $10,000 for the inevitable Fair Work conciliation and ‘go away’ payment

I have no doubt that senior public servants at the FWO thought their new online quiz was a great idea. It’s not. Instead, it demonstrates once again just how out of touch this Government agency really is.