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Fair Work Act compliance: audits and investigations

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) conducts proactive campaigns to educate and check compliance against employer obligations under the Fair Work Act 2009. As part of these campaigns, the FWO contacts randomly selected businesses in a particular industry or region to check a sample of their records. This is called an “audit”.

Audits are often in response to a Fair Work campaign which has identified particular industries that may not be meeting obligations under the Fair Work Act. In 2018, Fair Work Inspectors audited over 1600 retail, hair and beauty salons in NSW, Victoria and Queensland after previous workplace audits showed more than 50 per cent of salons failed to comply with workplace laws.

If a business is not complying with their workplace obligations, the FWO will provide information and resources to assist and request the employer rectify the issues. The employer will need to provide evidence to demonstrate that the problem has been fixed to FWO’s satisfaction.

While the focus of a Fair Work audit is to educate and assist, the Regulator will take appropriate enforcement action where employers intentionally breach their obligations or fail to make appropriate efforts to ensure ongoing compliance.

An Investigation is where a Fair Work Inspector considers allegations, gathers evidence, and examines it to determine if there have been breaches of workplace laws.

FWO investigations often take place in response to anonymous reports or requests from assistance from employees, which indicate the company may be breaching the Fair Work Act. Such reports typically relate to matters such as underpayment of wages, failing to provide correct work breaks, incorrect information detailed on pay slips or failing to pay termination entitlements.

During an investigation, Inspectors can visit workplaces, interview people associated with the business and request relevant records or documents to be provided. The average duration of a FWO investigation is four months.

At the end of an investigation the FWO will make findings, tell the employer what they need to do to rectify any issues and inform the employer what actions (if any) the FWO intends to take. Such actions can include court penalties of up to $126,000 per contravention for an individual and $630, 000 per contravention for companies.

Would you know what to do if you received a “Notice to Produce documents” from the Fair Work Ombudsman? What you legally need to show (and don’t) or by what date after you receive this Notice?

For any business, Fair Work Act compliance isn’t just a matter of luck.  Winging it and hoping for the best doesn’t fly with the Fair Work Ombudsman.  And that’s where we can help. Our expertise in HR makes it simple as we work with you to put in place the right employment structure for your business. Which means you can rest easy. Sound good? We think so. Check out our HR audit services 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.