A report from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) released on Thursday indicated a vast improvement in national compliance, after a series of re-audits that were performed on businesses that had previously breached workplace laws.
A total of 479 businesses were re-audited, with the FWO finding that 62 per cent of employers were now meeting their workplace obligations. Despite the strong commitment from employers to improve compliance, the re-audits alos revealed that some breaches had not been remedied.
The FWO recovered $244,246 for 347 workers, issued 16 compliance notices, 56 infringement notices and 88 formal cautions as part of the campaign, which targeted the hospitality, retail, construction and manufacturing industries.
Among the positive performers however, was Chemist Warehouse, which entered into a compliance partnership with the FWO in November 2016. Following underpayment allegations relating to employee training, the company was forced to back-pay $3.5m to nearly 6000 staff members.
The partnership was aimed at ensuring long-term compliance from the company’s franchise network and involved the integration of an external audit specialist (FCB Group) to audit operations.
The external auditor identified underpayments in its initial audit, attributed to payroll deficiencies, with Chemist Warehouse committing to upgrading systems and processes, resolving all underpayments.
Since then, Chemist Warehouse has run franchisee conferences and produced all-staff bulletins containing workplace relations information, ensuring partners understand their compliance obligations. Over the period of the partnership, the FWO received six requests for assistance from current or former Chemist Warehouse employees, referring the matters to the company.
Chemist Warehouse investigated the request and identified three breaches, reporting the outcomes to the FWO, before back-paying the relevant franchises a total of $1500.21 for non-payment of training time.
Sandra Parker, FWO ombudsman said the introduction and emphasis on self-regulation had been a major focus for the three-year partnership.
“Once we have identified employers who are breaching the law, we assist them to rectify the situation, educate them about their workplace obligations and provide them with the tools to manage their employees’ pay and entitlements,” Parker said.
“We regularly follow up with businesses to ensure they have made the necessary changes to comply with workplace laws. This activity confirms that most employers respond well to initial contact, and we are having a significant impact on long-term behavioural change.”
Parker also reaffirmed the FWO’s continued commitment to improving compliance on a national level.
“Any employer found in breach of workplace laws should be aware that we will continue to monitor their compliance and take appropriate action until they meet legal obligations to their employees.”