The Fair Work Ombudsman’s proactive compliance and education campaigns in Victoria’s Dandenong and Warrnambool – Otway Ranges regions have seen 350 workers back-paid a total of $624,332 in owed wages and entitlements.
Fair Work inspectors audited the time and wage records of over 500 businesses across the two regions for compliance with workplace laws, uncovering a total of 284 breaches.
In the Dandenong region, 42 per cent of the 253 businesses audited were found to be non‑compliant with workplace laws:
The overall non-compliance rate in Warrnambool – Otway Ranges was similarly high at 41 per cent:
In one instance, a grocery business was issued with a compliance notice for failing to meet the minimum base rates and penalty rates under the relevant Award. In line with the compliance notice, the employer back-paid a total of $14,455 owed to four casual workers.
The Dandenong campaign also led to an Enforceable Undertaking between the Fair Work Ombudsman and a sheet metal manufacturer, after the business was found to have underpaid sixteen casual employees from non-English speaking backgrounds.
Across both regions, compliance rates were higher amongst businesses with 15 or more employees as compared to small businesses, highlighting the importance of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s continuing focus on providing advice and assistance to small businesses who often lack ready access to professional support.
Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah said that the regulator seeks to focus its proactive campaigns towards areas where workers may face specific vulnerabilities, or where regions may be experiencing growth or other changes in employment conditions.
The Warrnambool – Otway Ranges region saw strong growth in certain industries despite an overall reduction in employment numbers, indicating possible significant labour movement between industries.
Meanwhile the Dandenong region is home to a potentially vulnerable workforce with a high proportion of people from non-English speaking backgrounds: 58.2 per cent compared to the Victorian state average of 23.1 per cent.
Ms Hannah said that language difficulties can pose a significant barrier to both employers and workers being aware of and complying with their workplace rights and obligations.
“Our proactive compliance and education activities are essential in reaching workers and businesses who require assistance and providing them with the information and advice they need,” Ms Hannah said.
“As well as recovering a significant amount in back-pay for hundreds of workers, these campaigns have better equipped businesses in both regions to ensure they are compliant with workplace laws in the future.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman will continue to follow up with businesses in these regions, and non-compliant employers are now on notice that there are no excuses for further breaches.”