Backpayments retrieved for regional workers

Fair Work Ombudsman audits of 600 workplaces in remote and regional locations across Australia have recovered $191,125 for 268 workers.

Fair Work Inspectors visited towns across five states and the Northern Territory, including Kununurra, Katherine, Longreach, Roxby Downs and Broken Hill, to check compliance with workplace laws.

The FWO selected regions for audit based on intelligence, such as requests for assistance from workers, as well as broader information such as census data. Employers were randomly selected.

Over 60 per cent of businesses audited in this campaign were fully compliant with workplace laws. Inspectors found 80 per cent of employers complied with payslip and record-keeping obligations, and 76 per cent were paying their employees correctly.

Most workplace breaches discovered related to underpayment of hourly rates and failure to meet payslip requirements. The FWO issued 45 formal cautions, 14 infringement notices (on-the-spot fines) and nine compliance notices to rectify these breaches and improve future compliance.

Back payments made by businesses ranged from $36 to a worker in Coober Pedy, South Australia, to $11,946 to two employees of a business in Stawell, Victoria. While findings varied by region, most industries audited in this campaign achieved higher than average compliance rates.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah said the workplace visits enabled inspectors to educate and engage with employers and employees, who may not otherwise seek help.

“Employees in smaller communities may be reluctant to raise workplace concerns where employment options may be limited. As a result of our workplace audits, tens of thousands of dollars have been put back in the pockets of workers in remote and regional Australian towns,” Hannah said.

The FWO stated that all businesses have the same responsibility to comply with their workplace obligations if they choose to employ workers, regardless of location and it is available to provide free advice and assistance to employers and employees, and to help resolve workplace issues quickly so employment relationships can stay intact.

“Fair Work Inspectors will continue to promote workplace compliance in remote and regional Australia by visiting workplaces, and we will check businesses have improved their workplace practices through our National Compliance Monitoring program,” Hannah said.

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