Café sector in spotlight as Fair Work Ombudsman cracks down on workplace basics

The Fair Work Ombudsman has begun auditing 1000 businesses across Australia, as part of a new campaign to ensure employers have the basics right in their workplaces.

The industries and areas of focus selected for the campaign have been informed by the analysis of data obtained from the Fair Work Ombudsman’s intelligence reports, including its anonymous reports, which have identified hotspots of concern.

The Workplace Basics campaign will see Fair Work Inspectors assist businesses in accessing and navigating the wide range of free resources available, to help them meet their obligations to pay workers correctly and follow record-keeping and pay-slip laws.

Inspectors will also be checking the time and wage records of randomly selected businesses across a wide range of industries, with a focus given to sectors where large numbers of vulnerable workers, such as casuals, migrants and students, are employed.

One area of focus will be the fast food, restaurant and café sectors in addition to retail, security and manufacturing.

The Fair Work Ombudsman will be seeking to ensure that employers are aware of the significantly higher penalties non-compliant businesses face under law changes passed last year to protect vulnerable workers, particularly those that relate to record-keeping.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah says successive campaigns conducted by the Fair Work Ombudsman are finding that too many businesses were getting the basics wrong.

“Failures to pay correct base hourly, penalty and overtime rates and inadequate or non-existent record-keeping and pay-slips are some of the breaches we consistently see from employers,” Kristen says. “If a business cannot get the basic requirements right, then there’s going to be a whole host of problems down the track for the workers and also the employer.

“It is imperative that businesses make themselves aware of their obligations as the potential penalties for such contraventions have never been higher.”

Changes made by the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 mean companies involved in serious contraventions now face penalties of up to $630,000 per contravention. The maximum penalties for individuals is now $126,000 per contravention.

The Act also doubled the maximum penalty for failing to keep employee records or issue pay slips to $63,000 for a company and $12,600 for an individual, and tripled the maximum penalty for knowingly making or keeping false or misleading employee records to $12,600 for an individual.

A reverse onus of proof can also now apply, meaning that employers who don’t meet record-keeping or pay slip obligations and can’t give a reasonable excuse will need to disprove allegations of underpayments made in a court.

Employers and employees can seek assistance at www.fairwork.gov.au or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. Small businesses can opt for priority service by following the prompts.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has a suite of supply chain resources accessible at www.fairwork.gov.au/supplychain, including practical guides to help businesses monitor their contract arrangements to help ensure workers in their networks are paid fairly.

The Pay and Conditions Tool (PACT) can be accessed at calculate.fairwork.gov.au and provides advice about pay, shift, leave and redundancy entitlements.