FWO sets 2022-23 compliance priorities

Fast food, restaurants and cafes will all be under scrutiny from the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) in the coming 12 months, while the university sector becomes a new focus area.

23 June 2022 

FWO Sandra Parker has announced the regulator’s strategic priorities for the year ahead, adding the universities sector, while a key focus remains supporting workers and businesses as they recover from the impacts of COVID-19.

The FWO said fast food, restaurants and cafes and agriculture would be the key industries of focus in 2022-23.

“The FWO continues to find high levels of non-compliance in the fast food, restaurants and cafe sector, with many requests for assistance coming from vulnerable workers," Ms Parker said.

"That is why we will continue to undertake proactive investigations in metropolitan food precincts across the year.

“The agriculture sector is also a priority given its reliance on visa holders, who can be at greater risk of exploitation, and its often complex labour supply chains. The Fair Work Ombudsman will also be playing a key role in both education and enforcement of the recent Horticulture Award changes.”

Ms Parker said the universities sector was a new compliance and enforcement priority after regular self-reports from universities of significant underpayments, including to casual workers.

“We are concerned about the allegations of long-running underpayments in many universities, with our current investigations finding trends of poor governance and management oversight, and a lack of centralised human resources functions and investment in payroll and time-recording systems,” she said.

“We expect to be taking high-level enforcement action against a number of universities this year, and urge all to prioritise their compliance."

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Ms Parker said that investigating large corporate underpayments also remained a priority for the regulator.

The FWO was currently investigating about 50 large corporates that have self-reported non-compliance. 

“Since mid-2021, we have commenced court actions against Woolworths Group, Commonwealth Bank and Coles which are ongoing, and we expect to take further high-level enforcement action against a range of large corporates this year,” Ms Parker said.

The regulator would continue to prioritise assistance to small businesses, recognising the crucial role they had played in the nation’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

“Small businesses have faced many workplace challenges in the last two years and we will continue to provide them with the information they need to meet their Fair Work Act obligations,” she said.

Meanwhile, compliance and enforcement activities will continue throughout the year in contract cleaning and through the FWO’s sham contracting unit.

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