BeanScene Magazine

Fair Work Ombudsman announces new Fair Work laws

From the October 2017 issue.

Fair Work Ombudsman welcomes new laws protecting vulnerable workers.

The Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 has now come into effect. This means new, higher penalties for serious contraventions of workplace laws and record keeping breaches. The Bill passed the Parliament on 5 September.

New obligations extending liability for underpayment and other breaches in franchise and subsidiary networks to head offices will start on 28 October 2017.

The changes apply to all employers, companies and employees covered by the Fair Work Act but are particularly important for franchisors and holding companies, vulnerable employees, and people or companies who do not voluntarily cooperate with Fair Work Ombudsman investigations.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has published a range of information and resources on its website at aimed at assisting all workplace participants to understand and comply with their obligations. This includes information on who the changes affect, what the changes mean for you, and what the changes are.

The Act includes a range of measures including an increase in the maximum penalties for employers who deliberately flout the minimum wage and other entitlements under the Fair Work Act 2009.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says employers also need to make sure they are meeting pay slip and record-keeping obligations.

“Businesses that don’t keep the right records, don’t give proper pay slips, or who make false or misleading records and payslips can face higher penalties,” she says.

Natalie says franchisors and holding companies could be liable if their franchisees or subsidiaries don’t follow workplace laws, so it is important for them to make sure they take reasonable steps to prevent breaches of workplace laws in their networks.

Natalie says employees should also be aware that strengthening of laws relating to cashback schemes means that if their employer requires an employee to use their own money unreasonably, or makes an employee give some of their pay back to their employer or another person, this could be unlawful.

“In passing the new laws, the Parliament has reflected the community’s concerns about deliberate exploitation of vulnerable workers,” Natalie. “The Fair Work Ombudsman will apply the laws judiciously and fairly, and work with business to ensure employers understand their obligations under workplace laws.”

Employees can get help resolving workplace issues and also report a workplace concern anonymously on the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website.

Employers and employees seeking assistance can also contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

Bonus Features

Summary of key changes
• Certain franchisors and holding companies become responsible for underpayments by their franchisees or subsidiaries where they knew, or reasonably ought to have known, about the contraventions and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent them
• A new category of serious contraventions has been introduced, with penalties that are 10 times the current maximum where employers knowingly contravene and it is part of a systematic pattern of contravening conduct
• New penalties for providing Fair Work inspectors with false or misleading information or records, and new prohibitions for hindering or obstructing them
• The prohibitions against unreasonably requiring employees to make payments, commonly seen as cashback arrangements, have been strengthened and extended to prospective employees
• Maximum penalties for record keeping and pay slip breaches have been doubled, and the maximum penalty for false or misleading employment records has been tripled.  New penalties apply for giving false or misleading pay slips
• Employers who do not meet record keeping or pay slip obligations and cannot show a reasonable excuse, will need to disprove wage claims made in a court
• The Fair Work Ombudsman’s evidence-gathering powers have been strengthened

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