Fair Work Inspectors have completed surprise audits of around 80 businesses in the university suburbs of Geelong, following intelligence that employers in the area were at risk of breaching workplace laws.
The workplace compliance checks, which took place last week, targeted the suburbs in and surrounding the two Deakin University campuses, Waurn Ponds and Geelong Waterfront, and extend to Grovedale, Belmont, Newtown and other surrounding suburbs.
Inspectors have audited businesses from industries that typically hire high numbers of university students: fast food, restaurant, cafes and retail.
In addition to the onsite audits, the Fair Work Ombudsman has requested records from approximately 150 other similar businesses in Geelong, raising the total overall audits to in excess of 200 employers.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said this week’s activities were driven by requests for assistance from young workers in the Geelong region.
“We know university students can be particularly vulnerable to workplace exploitation if it is their first job or if they are reluctant to raise issues due to limited employment options near campus,” she said.
“Fair Work Inspectors are on the ground in Geelong to check that businesses are paying their staff correctly and meeting their lawful obligations to employees under the Fair Work Act.”
Ms Parker said most requests for assistance from students relate to underpayment issues.
“Such as being paid unlawful flat rates which do not factor in higher penalty rates for weekend casuals, or not receiving important entitlements like annual leave if they are permanent employees.
“If we find non-compliance in Geelong businesses we audit, Fair Work Inspectors will ensure affected employees receive the wages and entitlements owed to them.
“We will also examine the pay records to determine if any further enforcement action is necessary.”
She said the Geelong audits are part of a broader campaign targeting university towns across the country.
Ms Parker said the FWO is committed to improving workplace compliance in the hospitality industry.
“We recently launched a suite of new interactive tools for employers and employees to help them better understand their workplace rights and obligations.
“Our free resources help hospitality workers and businesses to access key employment details such as base rates, penalty rates and overtime pay. Employers can use our pay calculator to check they’re doing the right thing by their staff when it comes to pay and workplace entitlements.”