The Fair Work Ombudsman (the “FWO”), Sandra Parker, has announced the regulator’s strategic priorities for the year ahead in a media release. The priorities include supporting all workplaces through the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing large corporate underpayments. The FWO is re-adjusting its focus to investigate serious allegations of “serious non-compliance with workplace laws”, including complaints about JobKeeper. The regulator revealed they were fielding 50 per cent more inquiries in April 2020 compared with 2019 and as of 8 July 2020, had seen a 25 per cent increase in JobKeeper inquiries.
The FWO indicated that fast food, restaurants and cafes, horticulture and the harvest trail, franchisors, and sham contracting will continue to be a focus of the regulator’s Compliance and Enforcement activities as well as regulating Australian workplaces significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic which will require a degree of flexibility in its approach.
According to, corporate wage theft also remains on the regulator’s list following a spate of high-profile underpayment cases involving some of Australia’s largest businesses, including Woolworths Group and several businesses owned by the Wesfarmers conglomerate.
The FWO commented about the upcoming priorities:
The FWO said the organisation will:
According to thedocument, actions will range from education, through to letters of caution, compliance notices, enforceable undertakings and in the most serious circumstances, litigation. The regulator will:
Education, advice, tools and resources to small business and those hardest hit by COVID-19 will also be provided. The regulator will also uphold the integrity of thescheme through appropriate compliance activities that resolve matters quickly and efficiently.
As outlined in Fair Work’s(the “Policy”), the object “... is to provide simple and clear information about how the FWO performs its statutory compliance and enforcement functions under section 682 of the FW Act [Fair Work Act 2009] …”
These functions include:
reports the regulator would consider not taking legal action for serious underpayments, delaying backpay or adjusting “contrition payments” in any enforceable undertaking, this approach has been informally applied for the past three months but has now formally updated its Enforcement Policy to consider “the impact on business viability, service delivery and employees if excessive costs and sanctions are imposed”.
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