Firstly, Ms Parker noted that the FWO will continue its focus on supporting workplaces as they manage the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, with a particular focus on the contract cleaning sector.
“Intelligence indicates that contract cleaning is part of an industry with large proportions of migrant workers, low-paid and part-time workers, who we know are at higher risk of exploitation,” she said.
“The sector also has a significant history of non-compliance, which, combined with an expected quick recovery due to increased demand for COVID-19-safe cleaning practices, makes it a sector to monitor closely.”
Further, fast food, restaurants and cafés, and horticulture remain a key priority over 2021–22, Ms Parker said, noting that the FWO continues to find high levels of non-compliance in the sector, “with a significant number of requests for assistance from vulnerable workers”.
SME resources available
In addition to outlining the FWO’s key priorities for the year ahead, Ms Parker used the opportunity to remind small businesses about the resources available to them, noting that in 2020–21, the regulator received more than 60,000 calls to its Small Business Helpline, and over 160,000 views of its Small Business webpage and Small Business Showcase.
“Our resources are complemented by the Employer Advisory Service, which provides eligible small businesses with free, tailored, written advice about employee entitlements under the National Employment Standards and award provisions,” she said.
“We hope the new service will give small businesses increased confidence to understand and comply with their obligations under the Fair Work Act.
“...We are here to help with free advice on lawful obligations, while also enforcing the laws to ensure vulnerable workers — and compliant employers — are not disadvantaged by those doing the wrong thing. We will continue to consider a business’ sophistication, financial position and viability as relevant public interest factors when deciding on appropriate enforcement action in the year ahead.”