The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is always active in monitoring and auditing business compliance and no employer is exempt from their reach. Therefore, all businesses must be constantly vigilant about maintaining compliance with today’s current workplace laws.
This includes staying up-to-date with any relevant legislative change which could affect South Australian businesses, taking into account any variations to Modern Awards and applying any wage increases as a result of the Annual National Minimum Wage Review conducted by Fair Work Australia (FWA).
It is essential that business across the State ensure they are paying the correct wage rates and employee entitlements, or face the expensive consequences.
Businesses should always remember that, even though the FWO promotes their education processes, they are the policing body for workplace laws. It is their responsibility to investigate any complaints or suspected breaches of Federal workplace laws, awards or agreements. This also includes the power to prosecute if they deem it necessary.
Cost of non-compliance
The FWO has recently announced that they have recovered more than $400,000 in underpayment of wages from South Australian-based employers.
A total of 120 workers were back-paid $416,000. One individual business had to back-pay 15 workers $140,000 because they did not pay severance entitlements. Other businesses had to make back payments from $5,400 to $40,000.
A number of the claims involved underpayments of the minimum hourly rate and penalty rates.
A significant proportion of the claims also involved underpayment of annual leave, severance and superannuation entitlements.
Despite the FWO not taking further action against any of the employers because they all voluntarily repaid any monies owing after being requested to do so by the FWO, it is essential that businesses continue to maintain compliance, even if no further action is taken. It is not always the case that the FWO decide not to further penalise a business over their non-compliance. For example, a company in Victoria has recently been fined by the Federal Court $220,000 for underpaying staff. The Court imposed the hefty fines because of past underpayment issues, which were rectified at the time, but were taken into account when considering the penalty for the latest breach.
The FWO recently announced three audits, which will target businesses across South Australia. These include an audit on dentists, orthodontists and medical rooms, which is being conducted in conjunction with SafeWork SA. There are also audits currently targeting employers in the structural metal product manufacturing industry and the vehicle repair industry, which began in February 2012. Business SA has already notified relevant award subscribers of the details of these audits.
Not sure of what types of action the FWO can take if they discover breaches? Read this article to find out more.
Never be complacent
The FWO audit all business regardless of whether they are a small, medium or large enterprise. They also conduct a range of national audits every year which focuses on regional areas, as well as capital cities. These audits are often industry-based, which results in employers being randomly selected to be part of the audit process. No business is exempt from the FWO’s reaches.
Aside from these regular industry audits and campaigns, the FWO can also investigate alleged breaches if they receive complaints or an unlawful dismissal claim is lodged. There have been in excess of 1,500 complaints lodged in South Australia alone in 2010-2011.
Want more information or need help?
If you are not sure of your obligations, Business SA has a range of services to help you.
The Telephone Advisory Service, a free service for members, has a team of experienced Business Advisers who can work with you on any issues or concerns you may have. They can help you with everything from record-keeping concerns and questions regarding wage rates to performance queries, legislative changes that may be affecting your business and difficulties with terminating employees.
Alternatively, you can book a Modern Award Advisory Service for more in-depth and tailored help. These one-on-one sessions help you to interpret and understand your relevant Modern Award to ensure correct payment of wages and accurate classification of employees, among numerous other benefits. Take advantage of this fixed-fee service at the low cost of $165 per hour. Follow this link for more details.
For more information, please call the Business Advisory Centre on 08 8300 0101.