Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 commences operation

The Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 (Act) received royal assent on 14 September 2017.

This means that the following changes to the Fair Work Act 2009 commenced from 15 September 2017:

  1. New and increased penalties for serious contraventions of workplace laws and record keeping obligations;
  2. New prohibitions against requiring an employee to unreasonably spend or pay an amount (to prevent cashback arrangements);
  3. Employers will bear the onus of proof in disproving a claim for underpayment of wages in a Court, in circumstances where the employer has failed to comply with their record-keeping or pay slip obligations, without reasonable excuse; and
  4. The Fair Work Ombudsman will have heightened investigative and enforcement powers, including the power, in certain circumstances, to require employers to attend before the FWO and answer questions relating to the underpayment of wages on oath or affirmation.

For responsible franchisor entities and holding companies, new obligations extending liability for the underpayments (and other contraventions of certain civil remedy provisions under the Fair Work Act) of their franchisees/subsidiaries will commence from 27 October 2017.