Big business hit with $500m bill for wages blunders in FWO crackdown

More than $500 million in lost wages has been recovered in the past year, mostly from big business and universities, according to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Oct 24, 2023, updated Oct 24, 2023
Australians no longer trust business to do the right thing

Australians no longer trust business to do the right thing

Over two years the total was about $1 billion and there were 81 litigations against companies in the past financial year.

In the FWO sights were several Queensland companies and it also started legal cases against a university, a franchisor alleging liability for franchisee breaches of workplace laws, and a holding company for alleged contraventions by its subsidiaries.

Earlier this year, the Fair Work Ombudsman raided about 20 farming businesses and labour hire companies in the Lockyer Valley after a tip-off related to wage theft.

It also conducted investigations into Sunshine Coast eateries recently and started legal action against the former operators of two restaurants in the Brisbane CBD.

Facing court are Il Roy Pty Ltd, which operated ‘Cha Cha Char’ and ‘Il Centro’ on the Eagle Street Pier, and the company’s sole director and shareholder, Bingqi Zhao.

“These major litigations, all continuing before the Federal Court, include two separate cases against the University of Melbourne, separate cases against franchisors 85 Degrees Coffee and Bakers Delight Holdings, and proceedings against holding company Super Retail Group and four of its subsidiaries,” the FWO said.

The FWO also entered into 15 Enforceable Undertakings with businesses, which covered a total of $40.3 million back-paid to employees. These EUs involved backpayments of millions of dollars each from some of Australia’s largest employers including Suncorp, Australian Unity, David Jones, Politix, Crown Melbourne and Perth, Charles Sturt University, the University of Newcastle and University of Technology Sydney.

The recovery follows the announcement yesterday by the Australian Tax Office clawed back $6.4 billion from big business and multinationals in the financial year.

Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said the regulator continues to deliver strong recoveries results because of its consistent work addressing underpayments in large employers.

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“The Fair Work Ombudsman has created a firmer culture of accountability and an environment that expects Australia’s largest employers to prioritise compliance,” Ms Booth said.

“These efforts, including prioritising both the large corporates and university sectors, and combining stronger, targeted compliance and enforcement action across our work, have led to more wages returned to workers’ pockets.

“$1 billion in backpayments across the last two years alone is an important result making a real difference to workers’ lives.”

“Our investigations and enforcement actions send a clear message – all employers must place a higher priority on ensuring they are meeting all their workers’ lawful entitlements, including by improving their payroll and governance and investing in advice.”


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