Cleaning industry faces further scrutiny

13 December 2012

The Fair Work Ombudsman will randomly audit up to 1000 cleaning contractors next year as part of a push to improve compliance within the industry.

Fair Work inspectors have recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars for underpaid cleaners over the past three years.

Auditing of 376 cleaning businesses in a national campaign in 2010 found 149 employers (40 per cent) were non-compliant with federal workplace laws.

The most common contraventions were underpayment of penalty rates, inadequate record-keeping practices and failure to adhere to minimum shifts.

Almost half a million dollars in underpaid entitlements was recovered for 934 employees throughout the country from 104 employers.

The cleaning sector continues to generate complaints to the Fair Work Ombudsman, resulting in large sums of money being returned to employees.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson says the 2010 results and ongoing complaints from the sector have prompted a decision to undertake a follow-up national campaign.

“We are mindful that this is an industry which employs large numbers of young people and migrant workers who may be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their workplace rights,” he said.

Mr Wilson said that as part of the campaign, as well as minimum entitlements, Fair Work inspectors would also focus on potential misclassification, procurement, sham contracting and discrimination.

“The issue of non-compliance with the Fair Work Act through procurement chains is a high priority for the Agency in both the private and public sectors and we are continuing to focus on this emerging problem and its far-reaching impact on exploitation in Australian workplaces,” he said.

The Fair Work Ombudsman website has a specific industry page at www.fairwork.gov.au/cleaning with tailored information and advice for the cleaning sector.

Each year, the Fair Work Ombudsman targets specific industries with national, state and territory-based education and compliance campaigns to assist employers to improve their workplace relations practices.

In the 2011-12 financial year, the Fair Work Ombudsman’s pro-active targeted campaign activity recovered a total of $6.158 million for 6574 employees nationally who had been short-changed their minimum entitlements.

Mr Wilson says the aim is to change long-term behaviour by providing employers with tailored information about what they need to pay, and points to a considerable turn-around in the security industry.

A Fair Work Ombudsman targeted campaign in the security industry in 2009 recouped $1.125 million in back-pay for 1156 security staff nationally who had been underpaid.

After identifying a low-level of compliance - just 47 per cent of almost 300 employers audited - the Fair Work Ombudsman provided the Australian Security Industry Association with funding to assist its members better understand their workplace obligations. It also developed a specific industry page at www.fairwork.gov.au - with tailored information and advice for the security sector.

After re-visiting the security industry for a follow-up campaign in 2011, the compliance rate jumped to 75 per cent of the 392 employers audited.

Mr Wilson says he hopes the cleaning industry will show leadership and join with the Agency to help drive behavioural change that ensures employers meet their lawful obligations to their workforce.

Recent examples of matters finalised by the Fair Work Ombudsman for cleaners include:

  • $133,000 back-pay for 31 cleaners employed to clean a Sydney CBD office building,
  • $90,000 back-pay for 16 cleaners employed by an Adelaide company at multiple sites across the metropolitan area,
  • $87,000 back-pay for 26 cleaners employed at a motel at Port Lincoln, in South Australia,
  • $83,600 for dozens of cleaners in Hobart, Launceston and Devonport in Tasmania underpaid the minimum hourly rate,
  • $70,000 back-pay for 53 cleaners employed to clean a Sydney CBD shopping complex,
  • $52,000 back-pay for 68 cleaners employed to clean a piggery at Corowa, in southern NSW,
  • $45,000 back-pay for two cleaners in the Barossa Valley, in South Australia,
  • $32,400 back-pay for two cleaners at Shepparton, in Victoria’s Goulburn Valley,
  • $25,500 back-pay for four cleaners at Herdsman, in Perth, not paid redundancy entitlements or wages in lieu of notice,
  • $19,800 back-pay for 19 cleaners at Wattle Grove, in suburban Sydney,
  • $16,900 back-pay for two cleaners at Fortitude Valley, in Brisbane,
  • $12,600 back-pay for two cleaners at Harvey, in South-West regional Western Australia, and
  • $10,000 back-pay for a cleaner at Victor Harbor, in South Australia.

Media inquiries:

Ryan Pedler, Assistant Director, Media & Stakeholder Relations,
(03) 9954 2561, 0411 430 902
ryan.pedler@fwo.gov.au

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