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About the campaign


In October 2015, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) commenced an education and compliance campaign (the campaign) focussing on the Cairns-South and Innisfail-Cassowary Coast areas of the Cairns region (the region) in Far North Queensland (FNQ). The region was identified as suitable for a campaign based on analysis of a range of data including Requests for Assistance (RfA) received by the FWO. Factors behind selecting this region included:

  • higher than average monetary recovery for the region in 2014 ($137,849) compared with the average recovery for all other Queensland regions ($106,395)
  • higher than average recoveries for individual employees in the region ($3063.31) in 2014 compared with the average recovery per employee across all other Queensland regions ($2855.87)
  • projected industry growth in the Cairns region1
  • providing an opportunity for the FWO to reach out to small businesses in a regional area that often lack dedicated staff to perform human resources and payroll functions. 

    Of the 266 businesses audited:

  • 225 (85%) were compliant with record-keeping and pay slip requirements
  • 210 (79%) were paying their employees correctly
  • 177 (67%) were compliant with all requirements
  • $142,953 was recovered from 38 businesses on behalf of 136 employees
  • Eight formal cautions, three Infringement Notices (on-the-spot fines) and one Compliance Notice were issued
  • One Enforceable Undertaking was executed.

What We Did

The FWO contacted stakeholders in the region to discuss the planning, delivery and promotion of the campaign. The campaign received media coverage through 4KZ Innisfail, the Cairns Post and the Herbert River Express.

Local media coverage also ensured that information about both the campaign and the FWO was delivered beyond those businesses included in the campaign and many businesses reported hearing about the campaign before the FWO had contacted them.

In addition to media coverage, FWO also gave a presentation in Tully with the Tully District Chamber of Commerce, on employer obligations as well as promoting the online tools and resources freely available at

Businesses selected for audit in this campaign were done so randomly, however a higher priority was assigned to those industries from which the FWO had received higher numbers of RfA.

Fair Work Inspectors (Inspectors) contacted  businesses in the major centres of the region, including Cairns, Bungalow, Portsmith, Manunda, Innisfail, Mission Beach, Tully and Cardwell and assessed time and wages records for compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009 (the Act), the Fair Work Regulations 2009 (the Regulations) and the applicable award or agreement. Where errors were identified, Inspectors required businesses to rectify the issue and provide proof of having done so (including back-paying any underpaid employees).  

Inspectors also provided businesses with information and resources to help them comply with their obligations under Commonwealth workplace laws. In particular, businesses were provided with the online resources freely available on the FWO website, including pay rates, fact sheets, templates, best practice guides, My Account and online training courses.

  1. Source: Department of Employment, Labour Market Information Portal, 2014 Employment Projections, Regional projections - interactive tool (Excel), Cairns SA4 region.