The Fair Work Ombudsman has outlined a stronger approach to enforcement of Australia’s industrial relations laws.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker has announced the regulator’s priorities for the year ahead, which will direct the agency’s compliance work and enforcement outcomes.

Sandra Parker PSM

“While it can be difficult as a regulator to find the right balance between using enforcement tools and getting a timely outcome, I am conscious that Parliament has given us increased powers and more resources, so it’s on us to send a strong message of deterrence to would-be lawbreakers,” Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said in an address to the 2019 Annual National Policy Influence Reform Conference in Canberra.

“The Prime Minister and the new Minister for Industrial Relations have also said that a priority for the Government is on law enforcement and adherence with Australia’s industrial relations laws.”

In 2019/20, the priority industries or issues the FWO will focus on are:

  • Fast food, restaurants and cafes;
  • Horticulture and the harvest trail;
  • Supply chain risks;
  • Franchisors; and
  • Sham contracting.

Ms Parker highlighted that vulnerable workers will continue to be a priority for the agency, as will matters that are of significant scale or impact on workers or the community, and/or where parties demonstrate a blatant disregard for the law.

Compliance notices to address underpayments, breaches of Awards and the National Employment Standards were also listed by Ms Parker for the regulator to play a bigger role.

Ms Parker highlighted that the flow on effect of requiring employers to take responsibility is directing finite resources to strategic matters or industries where the regulator wants to be extremely active.

“So if you are in one of our priority industries, operate a franchise system or employ large numbers of migrant workers, you should expect to hear from us,” Ms Parker said.