Conditions of employment a key focus for the Regulator

Posted on July 21, 2021

In early July 2021 the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), Sandra Parker, announced the organisation’s key priorities for 2021-22. Unsurprisingly, the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 will be a major focus for the Regulator.

Ms Parker identified contract cleaning as a new priority for this financial year, which has been identified as an area of concern based on intelligence the FWO has obtained. This intelligence indicates that contract cleaning is an industry with a high percentage of vulnerable workers. At a Council of Small Business Organisations Australia conference, Ms Parker stated:

“Intelligence indicates that contract cleaning is part of an industry with large proportions of migrant workers, low paid and part-time workers, who we know are at higher risk of exploitation.”

Ms Parker went on to note that, based on the knowledge and experience of FWO, the contract cleaning sector is one with a “significant history of non-compliance”, and that with the expected increase in demand for services flowing from the recovery from COVID-19 and the need for professional cleaning services, the sector has been identified as one that needs close monitoring over the coming financial year.

The Regulator will continue to maintain a keen focus on the fast food, restaurant and café, and horticulture industries throughout 2021-22. Ms Parker identified the horticulture industry as another in which migrant workers in particular are vulnerable and the industry has a history of non-compliance. Ms Parker noted that many workers within the industry are visa holders who are at risk of exploitation. The industry also has many complex labour supply chains which the FWO will monitor closely.

According to Ms Parker, the FWO continues to receive a high number of requests for assistance from vulnerable workers in the fast food, restaurant and café sector.

Enforcement action against large corporate employers for non-compliance with minimum standards remains an ongoing priority. Ms Parker stated:

“We are investigating more than 80 corporate sector employers for underpayments of workers. We recently commenced litigation against Woolworths, where we seek to recover back-payments we allege may be owed to about 19,000 employees. We expect to take further high-level enforcement action against a range of large corporates this year, and urge them to prioritise compliance.”

At Lynch Meyer, we have extensive experience in matters involving the Fair Work Ombudsman. Our employment and industrial relations team are more than willing to help if you have any questions relating to payment of workers or conditions of employment.

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