By Paul Ackerman
In recent months the Fair Work Ombudsman has begun auditing one thousand businesses across Australia as part of a new campaign to ensure employers have the basics right in their workplaces. Whilst many business owners may think they are doing everything necessary to meet their obligations, preliminary findings from the Workplace Basics campaign reveals that a worryingly high proportion of businesses are non-compliant with workplace laws.
So what are the issues?
A major area of focus for the Fair Work Inspectors has been the checking of time and wage records of randomly selected businesses across a wide range of industries, with particular attention given to sectors where large numbers of vulnerable workers, such as casuals, migrants and students, are employed.
Levels of non-compliance have been consistently high across the nation. In NSW the campaign to date has targeted the mid-north coast and mid-western regions of the state. Inspectors found that almost half (48 per cent) of businesses audited across both areas were not fully complying with Australian workplace laws. Common breaches related to pay slips and incorrect pay rates. Across the two regions a total of $431,792 has been back-paid to workers.
Similar levels of non-compliance were found in Adelaide where almost half of the 125 businesses audited across the CBD and surrounding suburbs were non-compliant with workplace laws. Checks of time and wage records found that 29 per cent of audited businesses were not paying their employees correctly, whilst a similar proportion had breached their record keeping and pay slip requirements. As a result of the audits, $54,701 in wages and entitlements was recovered for 113 workers.
The hospitality industry has come under close scrutiny with Fair Work’s Food Precincts campaign concentrating on popular food destinations in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane resulting in the recovery of $471,904 for workers. Findings to date show that an alarming 72 per cent of the businesses audited had breached workplace laws. The most common breaches related to underpayment of workers base hourly rates, inadequate employment records, non-provision of meal breaks and non-payment of overtime.
How do I protect my business?
Recent legislative changes mean that penalties for breaches, especially those for record keeping and pay slip breaches have significantly increased. It is more important than ever to ensure that your business is meeting its obligations or risk hefty fines.
Employee Matters are here to help and can support you via our Modern Award Classification service or as part of our Employee Expert Retainer.