On 3 June 2019, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) announced that it has been given increased powers and resources from Parliament to crack down on employers who are not adhering to Australia’s Industrial Relations laws.
The issues that the FWO will be targeting in 2019-2020 include:
- Sham contracting;
- Franchising arrangements; and
- Supply chain risks.
Underpayments, breaches of Modern Awards and the National Employment Standards will also be in the limelight.
In particular, the FWO will be focusing on employment practices in the fast food, restaurant and café industry as well as the horticulture industry.
Other areas of focus include:
- the exploitation of vulnerable workers;
- cases where employers have blatantly disregarded the law; and
- cases that have significant consequences for the affected workers and the wider community.
Employers who are found by the FWO to have underpaid workers, or who are otherwise non-compliant with their employment law obligations, risk being publicly named by the FWO.
In addition to naming and shaming employers, the FWO has powers to:
- compel the employer to produce employment records;
- issue penalty infringement notices;
- issue compliance notices; and
- take the employer to Court seeking compensation and the imposition of civil penalties (which are currently set at $63,000.00 per breach for a company and $12,600.00 per breach for any person who is knowingly involved in the breach).
The message from the FWO is clear – employers who engage in such practices will get caught.
This message serves as a timely reminder for employers on the risks for non-compliance. If you have never sought specialist employment law advice on your workplace practices, or have not done so for a while, then now would be a good time to have them reviewed and updated so that you can sit comfortably if a FWO Investigator knocks on your door.