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$532m recovered for workers

The latest Annual Report from the Fair Work Ombudsman details a record sum of $532m recovered for workers.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) recovered more than $532 million for 384,805 underpaid workers in 2021-22 – a record sum of back-paid wages and entitlements for a record number of employees.

The recoveries, detailed in the workplace regulator’s latest Annual Report, are three times higher than the previous record recoveries in 2020-21, and more than quadruple that achieved in 2019-20.

More than half of the year’s recoveries came from large corporate employers, who back-paid nearly $279 million to more than 267,000 employees. This was six times the amount returned from large corporates in the previous financial year.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the agency’s consistent work across many years addressing underpayments in Australia’s large corporations had hit significant milestones in 2021-22:

“All employers must prioritise putting in place systems and getting the advice they need to ensure they are paying workers their lawful entitlements. Those who are doing the wrong thing, including large corporates, are being found out – and we don’t hesitate to take enforcement action where appropriate.”

In total, there were 137 new litigations in 2021-22 – 80 per cent more than the year before. This is a record number of litigations for the FWO and the first time it has filed 100 litigations in a year.

In concluded cases, the agency secured approximately $2.7 million in court-ordered penalties and entered into nine Enforceable Undertakings with businesses, recovering $56.4 million for workers. The workplace regulator also issued 2,345 Compliance Notices in 2021-22, with recoveries through these notices up 23 per cent in a year. Fair Work Inspectors also issued 492 Infringement Notices with total fines of $446,037.

The agency resolved 18,622 workplace disputes between workers and employers in the financial year.

Employers and employees can visit or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

With a record sum of $532m recovered for workers under their belt, it would be fair to assume the FWO will continue to proactively investigate worker claims of underpayments. Best way to avoid run-ins with the Fair Work Ombudsman? Make sure the Human Resources compliance piece of your business is in place and reviewed at least annually. This includes ensuring you have your employees classified under the right Award and paid according to the appropriate levels within the applicable Award. Too busy to do it yourself? Find someone with genuine HR management experience to help. Check out our HR compliance page here.

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Note: Bare Bones Consulting provides HR services for employers. Employees seeking advice on workplace concerns should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.