Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker has announced the regulator’s strategic priorities for the year ahead.
Speaking at a Council of Small Business Organisations Australia (COSBOA) roundtable meeting on 9 July 2021, Ms Parker said that investigating large corporate underpayments remained a priority for the regulator.
“We are investigating more than 80 corporate sector employers for underpayments of workers. We recently commenced litigation against Woolworths, where we seek to recover backpayments we allege may be owed to about 19,000 employees. We expect to take further high-level enforcement action against a range of large corporates this year, and urge them to prioritise compliance,” Ms Parker said.
Fast food, restaurants and cafes and horticulture remain a key focus of activities in 2021-22.
“The FWO continues to find high levels of non-compliance in the fast food, restaurants and café sector, with a significant number of requests for assistance from vulnerable workers in the industry. The horticulture sector, which has a track record of significant non-compliance, also remains a priority with its reliance on visa holders who may be exploited and complex labour supply chains,” Ms Parker said.
Ms Parker also said the contract cleaning sector was a new compliance and enforcement priority this year.
Compliance and enforcement activities in franchising, and the sham contracting unit’s work, continue.
Ms Parker said the regulator recognised the crucial importance of small businesses to the nation’s economic recovery from COVID-19 and would continue to prioritise assistance to these employers.
“We are here to help with free advice on lawful obligations, while also enforcing the laws to ensure vulnerable workers – and compliant employers – are not disadvantaged by those doing the wrong thing. We will continue to consider a business’ sophistication, financial position and viability as relevant public interest factors when deciding on appropriate enforcement action in the year ahead,” Ms Parker said.
Information on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s 2021-22 Compliance and Enforcement Priorities are available here.
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