A total of 1,217 businesses were visited by inspectors from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) since 2018 in industries including hospitality, domestic construction, retail, manufacturing and administration services.
It said the audits had identified underpayments had impacted a large number of employees, totalling $1,326,125.
According to the FWO, nearly half of the businesses audited (583) failed to get the workplace law basics right.
Of these non-compliant businesses, 70 per cent underpaid their workers while 30 per cent failed their record-keeping and payslip obligations.
Hospitality — namely fast food, restaurants and cafés — was the least compliant industry (61 per cent non-compliant) of all businesses audited by the FWO.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the results were a wake-up call to employers that they need to prioritise workplace law compliance.
“Nearly three-quarters of employers that breached the law said they weren’t aware of the rules, which is not an excuse. Businesses are failing the basic requirements of being a responsible employer if they are not carrying out adequate due diligence before hiring,” Ms Parker said.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman has free resources on our website that assist businesses to comply with the law. Any employers with queries about pay and conditions and their lawful obligations to their employees should contact us for free advice.”
In response to the workplace law breaches, Fair Work Inspectors issued 24 on-the-spot fines totalling $32,980 in penalties, 457 contravention letters, 56 formal cautions and 47 compliance notices.
The FWO also entered into an enforceable undertaking with Super Max Coffee, after it found the business had underpaid 32 workers a total of $37,520.
Furthermore, nine employers remain under investigation for serious non-compliance discovered during the audits. The FWO is considering appropriate compliance and enforcement responses in these matters, which it confirmed may include legal proceedings and large penalties.