Lessons from the Fair Work Ombudsman
The recent release of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s annual report for 2013-2014 provides insight on those areas of the Fair Work Act 2009 (“FW Act”) which still present significant problems for employers and employees alike.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (“FWO”) is a statutory body established under the FW Act and is responsible for ensuring compliance with Australia’s workplace laws. Whilst historically viewed as a “toothless tiger”, with increases in powers, accountabilities and service delivery under the FW Act, the FWO is now a force to be reckoned with.
The annual report reveals that in 2013-2014 the FWO:
- Received 595,000 enquiries regarding workplace laws;
- Finalised 25,640 complaints and recovered more than $23 million for 15,483 employees;
- Completed 4,567 audits and recovered more than $4 million for 7,541 employees;
- Entered into proactive compliance deeds with 7 major businesses;
- Commenced 37 proceedings seeking civil penalties; and
- Conducted its first successful age discrimination case and secured a record $343,860 in penalties against a cleaning company for underpaying 6 employees.
As in previous years, failure to pay provide correct wages and conditions was the most significant category of complaints (75%) enquiries (48%) and litigation (43%).
Also in line with previous years, the FWO continues to secure penalties against employers and others involved in breaches of the FW Act far exceeding the amount of the relevant underpayments. From the 39 decisions handed down in proceedings seeking civil penalties, the FWO recovered $1.56 million in underpayments and secured penalties against employers and other involved in the breaches of more than $3 million.
Robertson Hyetts can provide assistance in identifying the correct wages and conditions and in responding to the FWO in relation to complaints, audits and litigations. Speak to our employment law solicitors, Jessica Duff, firstname.lastname@example.org or Andrew Pickles, email@example.com or on 03 5434 6666.