FWO recovers wages for underpaid Adelaide cleaners

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Cleaning service concept. Steam vapor cleaner removing dirt from carpet in flat, closeup

The Fair Work Ombudsman has recovered $18,952 in wages for 29 underpaid employees of different contract cleaning businesses in Adelaide. The action is the result of Fair Work Inspectors’ investigation of 17 commercial cleaning companies, which found that 10 of them had breached workplace laws.

The businesses selected for investigation were based on intelligence that raised concerns of non-compliance, including being the subject of anonymous tip-offs, customer enquiries or requests for assistance to the FWO. Inspectors interviewed cleaners, employers and managers, requested and reviewed records, observed work practices and noted staff numbers to verify employer records.

Of the 10 non-compliant cleaning companies, seven had underpaid their employees, two had underpaid their employees and also failed to meet pay slip and record-keeping requirements, and one business breached pay slip and record-keeping laws.

The most common breaches were failures to pay penalty rates, underpayments of minimum hourly rates of pay and failure to make and keep employee records.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the contract cleaning industry was a new compliance and enforcement priority for the agency in 2021-22.

“Contract cleaning is part of an industry that employs a lot of migrant workers, who we know are at higher risk of exploitation,” Parker said. “The cleaning sector has a significant history of non-compliance with workplace laws. The Fair Work Ombudsman expects all cleaning employers and supply chain businesses to comply with workplace laws.”

In response to the breaches, the FWO issued eight Compliance Notices requiring employers to rectify underpayments, which recovered $18,662. The largest backpayment from one business was $7852 for nine employees. There were also four Infringement Notices issued for pay slip and record-keeping breaches, resulting in $888 in fines paid.

Businesses were also warned that any future non-compliance may lead to higher-level enforcement action.