This article is written for national system employers – if you’re not sure which system your business falls under, send us an email and we’ll help you with this.
Have you ever wondered what really happens when you find yourself on the end of a Fair Work Ombudsman audit of your compliance with workplace laws? If you’re naughty – or even if you’re just not compliant because you’re uninformed – the likely answer is an infringement of some kind.
But what are the chances, eh? Well lots of employers have found out the hard way what this entails but read on to find out what these poor unfortunates had to learn for themselves.
They might. But even if they don’t…
Here at RAW Human Resources, we know that the Fair Work Ombudsman is extremely helpful with directions and free resources for National System employers. This includes regularly releasing details of the investigations they undertake – both to educate and of course, put a healthy fear into the business community (let’s not kid ourselves here).
The Fair Work Ombudsman appoints government employees called Fair Work Inspectors who have the power (generally speaking) to enter a workplace if they have a reason to believe:
- the Fair Work Act 2009 or a Fair Work instrument (e.g. an award or agreement) applies to the workplace
- records or documents relevant to compliance are on the premises (including documents on a computer).
There’s also an anonymous reporting hotline where people can report concerns in 16 different languages (17 if you count English)…
What are they looking for?
The Fair Work Ombudsman’s goal is to “support Australian workplaces so they can be compliant, productive and inclusive”. We know that many businesses share that goal but that the Australian industrial relations system is complicated and mistakes can be costly – both in terms of possible infringements, as well as the work required to fix mistakes. We also know that some businesses actively choose not to address non-compliance.
Take the recent hospitality industry example where a burger bar owner (yes, a simple burger bar) was personally fined $51,735 and the company fined $258,495 for serious breaches relating to the exploitation of young and overseas workers.
Unfortunately, examples like this are all too common and so the Fair Work Ombudsman has a healthy scepticism of just how well the rest of us are doing (though they do try to see the positive side as much as possible). Side note: this is even before they receive complaints and thus know who to target (or their industry).
What can you do to avoid penalties?
Since you can’t phone the Fair Work Ombudsman and ask to be put on a ‘please-do-not-disturb’ list, you have to face facts that there is a chance (however slim) you may find yourself on the end of an audit. (On this count, the State System has a similar attitude to inspecting sole traders and unincorporated businesses.)
The best advice we can give you is to know your obligations. Aaargh, the boring but all powerful legal compliances strike again!
And right now you’re asking yourself ‘I know that but where do I get this magical list!’
To make it as easy as possible for you, here are the first steps to finding out that information. If you don’t want to click the links that’s OK but perhaps copy and paste this article into your calendar for when you do have time.
Employment records and payslips
- You can download the Fair Work Ombudsman’s record keeping and payslips fact sheet to help you. There are also a number of employment record and payslip templates available.
- WA sole traders and partnerships in the WA industrial relations system should also keep employee records for seven years. Refer to WA record keeping requirements for templates and more information.
How to find the right award and pay rates
- Use the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Pay and Conditions Tool (PACT) to calculate your employees’ pay rates, shift work and leave entitlements from awards.
- You can also use PACT to help you find the correct award if you’re not sure.
- Visit the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety if you’re in the WA system.
By simply getting your records and timekeeping correct (or correcting them now) you will dramatically reduce the chances of ever having to face an on-the spot infringement or more serous Court appearance and civil penalties.
From experience, we also know that many of our clients say they have been able to sleep easier knowing that they’re doing the right thing. It has just been one less thing for them to worry about….what with the consequences being in the thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Still unsure or worried about having to call one of the industry regulators?
We often come across this which is why at RAW Human Resources we have adapted free online audits that can discreetly identify the same gaps an ‘Industry watchdog’ will look for or we’ll simply share further links and reading so you can do this yourself.
The only thing is to take action right now before you become just another one of the articles being shared by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
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