Fair Work inspectors to call on Northern Victorian employers

8 February 2010

The Fair Work Ombudsman has announced plans to step up scrutiny of employers in Northern Victoria.

The regulator has put businesses in Tongala, Goornong, Elmore, Rochester, Kyabram, Rushworth and Tatura on notice that they will be subject to random audits.

A team of inspectors from the Agency’s Bendigo office will visit retail, hospitality, hairdressing and farm supply businesses.

They are expected to make surprise visits to about 30 businesses tomorrow and Wednesday (Feb 9 & 10).

Employers will be asked to open their books to inspectors so they can check if staff are being paid correctly.

The audits will focus on employers’ record-keeping and pay slips to ensure they are complying with their legal obligations.

Fair Work inspectors will also provide information and advice to employers.

Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says the face-to-face contacts are part of a rolling campaign in Victoria.

Similar visits have already been made in Wodonga and Hamilton and are also planned this week in Wonthaggi and Phillip Island.

“We are very serious about our job of ensuring the community understands its rights and obligations in the workplace,” Mr Campbell said.

In cases where records are not up to scratch or indicate workers are being underpaid, inspectors may launch a wider investigation.

“Where we find records are not adequate or identify other non-compliance issues, we will provide information and assistance to employers and request they voluntarily rectify any problems,” Mr Campbell said.

“In cases where they don’t, or where we suspect deliberate underpayments or other serious breaches have occurred, we may launch a full audit which could lead to court proceedings.”

The maximum penalty for a breach of workplace law is $33,000.

Mr Campbell says the campaign aims to ensure more country employers understand their obligations to their employees and to raise awareness of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s role.

“In regional areas, workers are often reluctant to complain about their terms and conditions of employment for fear they may put their job at risk,” he said.

“Similarly, they worry that if they make a complaint, it could impact on their personal life, particularly in small communities.

“It is important regional workers along with their city counterparts understand there is an Agency they can turn to if they have workplace concerns. Complaints can be made confidentially and anonymously.”

Mr Campbell says the Fair Work Ombudsman has a range of user-friendly resources on their website that can assist employers comply with workplace laws and operate their workplace at best practice.

“Resources for small business on www.fairwork.gov.au include payslip and record-keeping templates, a self-audit checklist, template letters and fact sheets on dozens of topics including leave, industrial action, public holidays, enterprise bargaining, gender pay equality and family-friendly workplaces,” he said.

As well as online resources, the Fair Work Ombudsman has more than 200 highly-skilled advisers available to speak with employers and workers with questions on its Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 from 8am - 6pm weekdays.

The Fair Work Ombudsman also has Best Practice Guides which have been developed to assist employers make better use of the provisions of the Fair Work Act and better understand other aspects of workplace laws.

Mr Campbell says the guides cover work and family, consultation and co-operation, individual flexibility arrangements, employing young workers, gender pay equity, small business, workplace privacy, managing underperformance, effective dispute resolution and improving workplace productivity.

The Fair Work Ombudsman promotes harmonious, productive and co-operative workplaces. It also monitors compliance and investigates breaches of national workplace laws.

Media inquiries:

Craig Bildstien, Director Media & Stakeholder Relations,
0419 818 484

Ryan Pedler, Media & Stakeholder Relations Senior Adviser
(03) 9954 2561, 0434 365 924

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