Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker has announced the regulator’s priorities for the next 12 months, including fast food, restaurants and cafes; horticulture and the harvest trail; supply chain risks; franchisors; and sham contracting.
“So if you are in one of our priority industries, operate a franchise system or employ large numbers of migrant workers, you should expect to hear from us,” Ms Parker said.
Ms Parker flagged a bigger role for compliance notices to address underpayments, breaches of awards and the National Employment Standards.
“Where an employer is issued with a compliance notice, the onus will be on them to get their house in order. We are going to simplify these notices so it’s easy for employers to understand what they need to do, but if they don’t comply with the terms of our compliance notice, the Fair Work Ombudsman won’t resile from taking them to court to seek penalties,” Ms Parker said.
She also confirmed that the regulator’s compliance and enforcement policy will be updated to reflect this new approach.
“Now I think the bar should be higher again for larger, high-profile businesses that self-report non-compliance to us, which has been occurring quite frequently of late. This might be the result of better corporate governance arrangements following the banking royal commission, and while this is a good thing, the law still needs to be upheld,” Ms Parker said.
“Our default position now is that an enforceable undertaking with the FWO will be required, as a minimum, and those enforceable undertakings will require the employer to meet the cost of getting their underpayments verified by experts contracted to the FWO, so that the burden of calculating what is owed is not put onto the taxpayer.
“Employers that self-report should also expect to make a contrition payment reflecting the seriousness of their contravening conduct, because it is simply not acceptable for businesses to throw their hands up when they’ve been underpaying workers and expect to move on without consequences once the back pay is in the workers’ accounts.”