The Fair Work Ombudsman website requires JavaScript. Please enable JavaScript on your browser.


The primary purpose of the inquiry was to test intelligence received (alleging non-compliance) relating to the procurement of cleaners by three major supermarkets. 

As Woolworths was the only major supermarket retailer outsourcing its day-to-day cleaning services, procurement arrangements at Woolworths sites were the chief focus of the inquiry.

With respect to Woolworths sites, the inquiry found multiple contraventions of the Cleaning Award, with 90% of the Tasmanian sites indicating non-compliance1.

There were seven principal contractors responsible for managing cleaning services at the 31 Woolworths sites:

  • four were Tasmanian-based companies (with three having no sub-contracting arrangements in place and directly employing workers)
  • one was a franchisee
  • two were interstate-based national businesses.

In turn, these principal contractors engaged 10 subcontractors to provide cleaning services to Woolworths sites. The inquiry was unable to confirm the legal identity of two of the 10 subcontractors.

A majority of the cleaners interviewed by inspectors during site visits were:

  • unable to provide details as to the nature of their engagement (e.g. status of employment, identity of employer)
  • unwilling to advise how much they were being paid
  • not receiving payslips
  • paid a flat rate for all hours worked
  • unaware of the applicable penalty rates under the Cleaning Award
  • unable to provide a clear indication of the business which employed them (except to provide a first name and sometimes a mobile number of the person they reported to)
  • from overseas or of a non-English speaking background.

  1. Indications of non-compliance refer to observations by FW inspectors in the course of the inquiry suggesting that contraventions of the FW Act had occurred. While the great majority of investigations were conducted and concluded as a consequence of these observations, in some instances investigations were not able to be finalised due to the liquidation or disappearance of some of the subcontractors, particularly following changes to cleaning contracts by Woolworths in October 2015. Following the announcement of those changes by Woolworths some subcontractors lost their contracts and their businesses ceased trading. The FWO determined not to further pursue investigations or make formal findings of contraventions in those instances.