09 Aug FWO receives record number of website visits
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) is the statutory body responsible for promoting harmonious, productive and cooperative workplace relations in Australia.
The key functions of the FWO are to:
- provide education, assistance and advice to employees and employers about lawful work practices, rights and obligations;
- monitor compliance with workplace relations legislation and industrial instruments;
- investigate complaints or suspected contraventions of workplace laws, awards and agreements; and
- litigate to enforce workplace laws and deter people from breaching their obligations.
The FWO recently released its annual report for 2013-2014. Amongst other things, the report provides that the FWO received a record total of 11.7 million visits to its website during the year, which is an increase of approximately 14% from the previous year.
Further, more than 2 million fact sheets, best practice guide and templates were downloaded from the FWO website during the year.
The FWO also finalised over 25,000 complaints and recovered more than $23 million for workers during the year. The most common complaints made to the FWO related to non-payment of wages, underpayment of wages, annual leave entitlements and payment in lieu of notice of termination.
Implications for employers
The high number of visits to the FWO’s website indicates that workers are becoming more interested and informed than ever before about their workplace rights and entitlements.
It is therefore increasingly important that employers satisfy their workplace relations obligations to their employees. If not, they may be the subject of a complaint to the FWO and potentially liable for the significant sanctions available against employers that breach certain workplace requirements, including civil penalties of up to $51,000 per breach and compensation for any damage suffered as a result of the breach.
To protect themselves, employers should take adequate steps to ensure they understand their workplace relations obligations and are complying with them. As a minimum, employers should have up-to-date written employment agreements which reflect the minimum terms and conditions of employment prescribed by the National Employment Standards of the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and any applicable modern award or enterprise agreement.
If an employer is unsure of their workplace relations obligations, for example whether their employees are covered by a modern award or their duty to provide such entitlements as overtime, penalty rates and annual leave loading, they should seek urgent legal advice.