Northern Tasmanian farms checked for underpayments

8 February 2024

The Fair Work Ombudsman is making surprise inspections of agriculture businesses in Tasmania’s north and northwest this week to check workers are getting the right pay.

Fair Work Inspectors have been targeting about 20 farms and labour hire companies ranging from in and around Devonport through to East Launceston and Cressy.

The regulator acted after receiving intelligence from a range of sources, including anonymous reports, indicating potential underpayments of employees in the region’s agriculture sector. The farms inspected grow a range of produce including berries, apples and pears. Pastoral and viticulture businesses are also being inspected.

Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said continuing to boost compliance among agriculture sector employers remained a priority for the agency.

“These inspections are focused on holding employers to account if they are not meeting their obligations. We will take enforcement action where appropriate. We also act to help employers understand their legal responsibilities, including record-keeping – the bedrock of compliance – and the minimum wage guarantee for pieceworkers,” Ms Booth said.

“This sector engages many vulnerable workers, such as backpackers, other migrants and those with limited English skills, who are particularly at risk of exploitation as they’re often unaware of their rights or unwilling to speak up. Visa holders should remember they have the same workplace rights as all other workers.

“Employers who need assistance meeting their obligations should contact the FWO directly for free advice. We also urge workers with concerns about their wages and entitlements to reach out to us, including via an anonymous report if they prefer.”

Inspectors spoke with business owners, managers and employees on the ground, and requested records. They were on alert for employers not paying for all hours worked; unauthorised deductions from wages; non-payment of penalty rates; failing to meet the minimum wage guarantee for pieceworkers in the horticulture industry; unlawfully low hourly rates for visa holders; manipulation of time and wage records; issues with payslips and more.

Investigations continue and results will be published at a later date.

The investigations are part of the regulator’s Agriculture Strategy which began in December 2021. Under the strategy, the FWO is targeting more than 450 businesses in 15 ‘hot spot’ regions where there are identified high risks of non-compliance. Industry sectors being investigated include viticulture, horticulture and agriculture.

Where breaches warrant court action, a court can order penalties of up to $18,780 per contravention for an individual and $93,900 per contravention for companies. Maximum penalties are 10-times higher if a court determines breaches were serious contraventions under the Fair Work Act.

The FWO’s Horticulture Showcase has self-audit tools, a piecework arrangements employer checklist, a piecework record template, and resources for migrant workers.

Employers and employees can visit or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50. Issues can also be reported online anonymously.

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Media inquiries:

Claire, 0418 825 074,