FWO announces 2022-23 priorities

22 June 2022

Fair Work Ombudsman 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.

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

Fast food, restaurants and cafes and agriculture will 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. That is why we will continue to undertake proactive investigations in metropolitan food precincts across the year,” Ms Parker said.

"The agriculture sector is 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 that investigating large corporate underpayments remained a priority for the regulator.

“We are 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.

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.

In 2021-22, the Fair Work Ombudsman has answered more than 50,000 calls to its Small Business Helpline and had over 270,000 views of its Small Business webpage and Small Business Showcase.

“Our targeted small business resources have been complemented by the Employer Advisory Service, which in 2021-22 has provided more than 1000 tailored written advices to eligible small businesses in relation to employee entitlements under the National Employment Standards and award provisions. 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,” Ms Parker said.

Compliance and enforcement activities will continue throughout the year in contract cleaning and through our sham contracting unit.

“We will continue to enforce wage laws to ensure vulnerable workers, including visa holders and young workers, are protected, while helping both employers and workers with free advice,” Ms Parker said.

FWO’s 2022-23 Compliance and Enforcement Priorities are available here. Information about Australian workplace laws and coronavirus is available here and information on the Employer Advisory Service is available here.

Employers and employees can contact the FWO Infoline for free assistance on 13 13 94.

Follow the Fair Work Ombudsman @fairwork_gov_au or find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/fairwork.gov.au.

Sign up to receive the Fair Work Ombudsman’s media releases direct to your email inbox at www.fairwork.gov.au/emailupdates.

Media inquiries:

Matthew, 0466 470 507, media@fwo.gov.au