Australian workers back-paid $500 million

Fair Work Ombudsman recovered $509 million for 251,475 underpaid workers in 2022-23.

The Fair Work Ombudsman recovered $509 million for 251,475 underpaid workers in 2022-23 – the second consecutive year of more than half a billion dollars in underpayments recovered.

The recoveries detailed in the workplace regulator’s newly published Annual Report are the second-largest annual figure recorded, following only the record sum in 2021-22.

More than half of last year’s recoveries came from large corporate and university employers who together back-paid more than $317 million to more than 160,000 underpaid employees.

Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said the regulator continues to deliver strong recoveries results because of its consistent work addressing underpayments in large employers.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman has created a firmer culture of accountability and an environment that expects Australia’s largest employers to prioritise compliance,” Booth said.

“These efforts, including prioritising both the large corporates and university sectors, and combining stronger, targeted compliance and enforcement action across our work, have led to more wages returned to workers’ pockets.

“$1 billion in backpayments across the last two years alone is an important result making a real difference to workers’ lives.”

“Our investigations and enforcement actions send a clear message – all employers must place a higher priority on ensuring they are meeting all their workers’ lawful entitlements, including by improving their payroll and governance and investing in advice.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman filed 81 litigations in 2022-23.

The FWO also entered into 15 Enforceable Undertakings with businesses, which covered a total of $40.3 million back-paid to employees.

The workplace regulator issued 2,424 Compliance Notices, resulting in $14.8 million in unpaid wages recovered.

Fair Work Inspectors also issued 626 Infringement Notices for record-keeping or pay slips breaches, with total fines of $739,966 – 65 per cent more than in 2021-22.

Booth said it is vitally important for the regulator to explore and address the drivers of non-compliance and leverage education and engagement activities to achieve the purpose of the FWO – to promote harmonious, productive, cooperative, and compliant workplace relations.

“I am incredibly proud to lead an organisation that delivers such important services for the community. Through the agency’s sustained hard work, we have ensured that employees and employers across Australian workplaces have the help and latest accurate information they need. Of course, prevention is better for employer and worker alike,” Booth said.

“We are continuing our intelligence-led, priority-driven work in 2023-24, targeting high risk sectors including agriculture, building and construction, care, fast food, restaurants and cafés, large corporates and the university sector, while also prioritising small business employers and employees, and vulnerable or ‘at risk’ workers.”

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