The Fair Work Ombudsman is the government agency responsible for regulating workplace matters. Its role includes providing education and information to employers and employees and to investigate and prosecute matters of non-compliance. It has wide powers to enter workplaces, interview individuals and inspect records.
Head of the Fair Work Ombudsman, Sandra Parker, recently confirmed the agency’s priorities for the year ahead. These include continuing to provide support for at-risk businesses and employees as well as driving compliance within the workplace. The primary theme of the 2021-22 agenda is targeting industries that are typically non-compliant and attract vulnerable workers. It is also expanding its advisory services.
Sector and industry compliance and enforcement
The FWO has confirmed its intentions to continue monitoring and taking enforcement actions in the following industries and sectors which have been identified as attracting high rates of workers who are at risk of exploitation:
- Fast food
- Restaurants & Cafes
The Fair Work Ombudsman has, in previous years, been able to recover around $123 million in lost wages to employees, many of which related to underpayments within industries that are commonly found to be non-compliant. Vulnerable workers commonly employed within these industries include migrant, part-time and casual workers; workers who often receive lower wages and less regulated employment conditions.
Large corporate underpayments
Aside from tracking breaches of the workplace law that regularly occur in smaller businesses, the FWO will also seek to investigate larger corporations; enforcing that compliance is expected to be adhered to at all levels. Sandra Parker confirmed over 80 corporate sector businesses are currently being investigated to ensure workers are not being underpaid.
Following recent litigation against retail giant, Woolworths, employers are reminded that breaches at any scale can be exposed and challenged by the FWO.
Franchising and sham contracting
Additional areas of focus for FWO include regulating and providing direction in the areas of franchising and sham contracting. The FWO will focus on franchise networks which have been found to disadvantage workers as well as sham contracting where workers are falsely engaged as contractors instead of employees.
In communicating their priorities, the FWO emphasises that they will continue to look at all relevant social and economic factors in enforcing compliance – including understanding the financial and other impacts COVID-19 has had on businesses.
You can read more about FWO and their priorities here.
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If you operate in any of the areas where the FWO will be focusing its attention, there is a possibility that your business operations may come under the scrutiny of the FWO either as a result of a random audit or because a disgruntled employee raises a complaint with the Ombudsman.
Employment Innovations is one of Australia’s leading providers of employment services designed to increase productivity and ensure compliance. Its services and solutions include all the tools that every Australian small to medium sized employer needs – including workplace advice, legal services, payroll solutions, migration, human resource management and HR software.
The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact Employment Innovations for advice.