There isn’t a week that goes by when the Fair Work Ombudsman does not hand down a significant penalty to an employer. For example, you may have noticed the following headlines straight from Fair Work Ombudsman website:
10 April 2018: “WA workers back-paid almost $390,000 and three businesses penalised in court following FWO campaigns.”
5 April 2018: “Campaigns in regional Victoria recover more than $620,000 for hundreds of workers.”
29 March 2018: “Adelaide and Perth’s popular food precincts hit with unannounced workplace audits”
Fairwork has announced that they are cracking down on employers who breach their employer obligations, such as failing to pay the correct base hourly penalty rates combined with inadequate or non-existent record-keeping.
Auditing of selected businesses across Australia has already commenced, as part of a new campaign to ensure employers meet the workplace laws and requirements. Fairwork inspectors will be checking time and wage records, with a focus given to sectors where large numbers of vulnerable workers, such as casuals, migrants and students, are employed.
Employers need to appreciate that the Fairwork inspectors will not only have a strong audit and education focus, but they will use their compliance and enforcement powers where required. Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah warns that they will not hesitate to take action at any time, including the commencement of legal proceedings, where there is evidence of serious, repeated or deliberate breaches.
How confident are you that your business is complying with workplace legislation?
As a manager or business operator, it is crucial that you are aware of your obligations – the potential penalties for such infringements have never been higher. For example, changes made by the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 mean companies involved in serious contraventions now face penalties of up to $630,000 per contravention. The maximum penalties for individuals are now $126,000 per contravention.
The Act also doubled the maximum penalty for failing to keep employee records or issue pay slips to $63,000 for a company and $12,600 for an individual, and tripled the maximum penalty for knowingly making or keeping false or misleading employee records to $12,600 for an individual.
A reverse onus of proof can also now apply, meaning that employers who don’t meet record-keeping or pay slip obligations and can’t give a reasonable excuse will need to disprove allegations of underpayments made in a court.
All employers need to ensure that they are complying with all relevant workplace legislation to avoid the potential risks. WorkPlacePLUS has a specialised HR team that can support employers meet their workplace obligations. To conduct an independent review of your compliance with workplace legislation, or just to discuss a Human Resources issue, please contact us today.