The answer will of course depend upon the facts of each situation.
However, generally speaking, the power of the Fair Work Commission (FWC) to resolve a dispute is dictated by the terms of the dispute settlement clause in the applicable instrument, whether that be a modern award, enterprise agreement or other recognised instrument under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act).
In this article we shall use a term in an enterprise agreement as an example.
The FWC’s power in such a case, to resolve a dispute, derives from the dispute settlement term in that enterprise agreement. Accordingly, the FWC may only deal with a dispute brought under that enterprise agreement by application of a party to the dispute (s.739(6) FW Act).
For example, a dispute over a clause or entitlement (i.e. an issue of interpretation) often arises during the operation of the enterprise agreement and can be resolved by the FWC exercising its permitted powers (limited by the term).
But what happens when the dispute pertains to an employee’s entitlement and the employment relationship ceases before the dispute is resolved or is heard by the FWC?
This is an issue because, generally speaking, in order to be able to claim an entitlement under the enterprise agreement, for example, an entitlement to wages, the employee must be employed at the time under the terms of that enterprise agreement. The same applies in relation to an entitlement to bring a dispute under the enterprise agreement, for example, a dispute about a request by an employer to undertake a medical assessment.
Therefore, it may be a logical conclusion that once the employment relationship ceases, so does the right to bring a dispute under the enterprise agreement. In the above case, if the employee refuses to undertake the medical assessment, an unscrupulous employer may terminate that employee’s employment.
However, if the requisite steps in the dispute resolution process have commenced (again depending on the wording in the dispute resolution process) the entitlement to continue to pursue that dispute may survive the cessation of employment. In this example, after the request from the employer but before the decision to terminate, the employee or Professionals Australia notifies the employer that the matter is in dispute. That is, even though the employment relationship has ended and the employee is no longer covered by the enterprise agreement, that employee or Professionals Australia is still entitled to pursue all of the steps prescribed in the requisite dispute settlement process in the enterprise agreement (this includes Arbitration by the FWC).
It is therefore critical that if members have issues that arise under their applicable enterprise agreement (or modern award), then they should speak to their union official about their rights in relation to such, especially if it may be a possibility that the employment relationship ceases before the dispute is resolved or escalated to the FWC.
This entitlement to continue to pursue a dispute pursuant to a dispute settlement procedure in an enterprise agreement subsequent to the cessation of the employment relationship was illustrated recently in the FWC decision of CFMEU v Thiess Pty Ltd  FWC 5089. In that case, Deputy President Asbury held that:
 Accordingly, I have concluded that on a proper construction of the 2013 Agreement, a dispute under clause 7 can be initiated before an application is made to the Commission under clause 7.3. A former employee who puts his or her selection for redundancy in issue before employment ceases has initiated a dispute and can make an application to the Commission after that time, in accordance with clause 7.3 and Step 5 of the Dispute Resolution Procedure in clause 11 of the 2013 Agreement.
 It is therefore necessary to consider whether Mr Lever put the issue of his selection for redundancy into dispute prior to the termination of his employment, so that he could make an application under clause 7.3 and Step 5 of the Dispute Resolution Procedure in clause 11 of the 2013 Agreement. I am satisfied on the basis of the evidence before me, that Mr Lever did put the issue of his selection for redundancy in dispute before his employment ended.