Fair Work Ombudsman announces 2022-23 priorities

Compliance and enforcement activities to continue throughout the year in contract cleaning.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker has announced the regulator’s strategic priorities for the year ahead, with the watchdog set to continue its focus on contract cleaning.

Parker said the regulator would continue to prioritise assistance to small businesses, recognising the crucial role they had played in the nation’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

“Small businesses have faced many workplace challenges in the last two years and we will continue to provide them with the information they need to meet their Fair Work Act obligations,” Parker said.

In 2021-22, the Fair Work Ombudsman has answered more than 50,000 calls to its Small Business Helpline and had more than 270,000 views of its Small Business webpage and Small Business Showcase.

Compliance and enforcement activities will continue throughout the year in contract cleaning and through its sham contracting unit.

“We will continue to enforce wage laws to ensure vulnerable workers, including visa holders and young workers, are protected, while helping both employers and workers with free advice,” Parker said.

Investigating large corporate underpayments will also  remain a priority for the regulator.

“We are currently investigating about 50 large corporates that have self-reported non-compliance. Since mid-2021, we have commenced court actions against Woolworths Group, Commonwealth Bank and Coles which are ongoing, and we expect to take further high-level enforcement action against a range of large corporates this year,” Parker said.

The universities sector will be a new compliance and enforcement priority after regular self-reports from universities of significant underpayments, including to casual workers.

“We are concerned about the allegations of long-running underpayments in many universities, with our current investigations finding trends of poor governance and management oversight, and a lack of centralised human resources functions and investment in payroll and time-recording systems. We expect to be taking high-level enforcement action against a number of universities this year, and urge all to prioritise their compliance,” Parker said.

Fast food, restaurants and cafes and agriculture were also named as key industries of focus in 2022-23.

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