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Inquiries

Data trends, large scale non-compliance, or significant public concern may prompt an inquiry. Our initial findings and intelligence determine the approach, duration and scope.

We may apply a number of methodologies to examine the structural and behavioural drivers that led to systemic and entrenched non-compliance in an industry, region, supply chain, labour market or a combination of these.

An inquiry may involve site visits, interviews, surveys and audits of workplace records to map the particular industry subsector or issues. This can prompt a number of in-depth investigations. At the conclusion, inquiry findings, recommendations and actions are documented in a report. These reports are published on the FWO website.

Table 5: Inquiries completed in 2015-16
Inquiry Duration Findings Outcomes
​Inquiry into 7-Eleven tested allegations of significant wage underpayment and falsification of employment records across the Australian franchise network.
June 2014 - April 2016
  • A general acceptance from stores and employees that pay rates would be below the lawful minimum rate.
  • Visa holders were reluctant to report underpayments or cooperate for fear of self-incrimination and consequent investigation by another regulator or retribution from their employer.
  • Franchisees deliberately falsified records to disguise underpayments and 7-Eleven head office failed to address clear problems in a meaningful way until faced with public scrutiny.
  • Seven matters filed in court
  • One enforceable undertaking
  • 20 letters of caution, 14 infringement notices and three compliance notices issued
  • Over $293 500 recovered for more than 70 workers
  • More than $779 510 in court-ordered penalties
Inquiry into the procurement of housekeepers by Starwood Hotels and Resorts, The Accor Group and Oaks Hotels & Resorts​ tested allegations that housekeepers were being paid a flat rate for each room cleaned, instead of an hourly award rate as full-time, part-time or casual employees.
July 2014 - May 2016
  • Cleaning contracting organisations were mistakenly paying wages under the Hospitality Industry (General) Award, instead of the Cleaning Services Award, or engaging workers as independent contractors, when they should have been classified as employees.
  • Some cleaning contracting organisations were also making unlawful deductions from wages.
  • Three enforceable undertakings
  • Eight letters of caution, two infringement notices and six compliance notices issued
  • $57 000 recovered for 120 workers
​Inquiry into trolley collection services procurement by Woolworths Limited tested allegations of wage underpayment and intentional recruitment of vulnerable workers throughout businesses involved in Woolworths' labour supply chains.
June 2014 - June 2016
  • Out of 130 sites, more than three in every four (79%) had indications of non-compliance. Almost half (49%) presented serious non-compliance.
  • Workers were being paid rates as low as $10 an hour.
  • Complex supply chains with networks of corporate structures and intermediaries to facilitate cash payments, recruit vulnerable workers and produce false records.
  • Two matters filed in court
  • Nine letters of caution issued
  • Over $36 090 recovered for more than 20 workers
  • A number of matters being considered for further enforcement action

Inquiries continuing in 2016-17 are examining:

  • the wages and conditions of those working under the 417 Working Holiday visa program
  • the procurement arrangements for cleaners in Tasmanian Coles and Woolworths supermarkets
  • the procurement arrangements of security officers within local governments
  • the employment arrangements of seasonal workers on the harvest trail.