Record high number of litigation cases initiated by the FWO in the 2021-22 financial year
Author: Jennifer Sung, Lawyer
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has recently published its 2021-22 Annual Report.
The Fair Work Act 2009 requires the FWO to submit an annual report to outline the FWO’s general organisation, administration and performance during each financial year as the Australian workplace regulator.
The FWO has reported strong results in the 2021-22 financial year including:
- Recovering more than $532 million for 384,805 people – more than 2.5 times higher than the recoveries in the 2020-21 financial year;
- Recovering nearly $279 million for more than 267,000 employees from large corporate employers – more than 6 times higher than the recoveries in the 2020-21 financial year. It is noted that nearly 68% of the amount was self-disclosed underpayment issues;
- Recovering more than $108 million for 20,267 employees through targeted compliance work, including surprise audits;
- Issuing 2,345 compliance notices – 16% more than the 2020-21 financial year;
- Completing 18,622 disputes in high-risk sectors;
- Initiating 137 litigations – 80% more than in the 2019-20 financial year;
This is the first year the FWO has exceeded over 100 litigations in a financial year.
Among these are the matters commenced this year by the FWO against Commonwealth Bank and Coles Supermarkets, both currently before the Court. FWO will continue its work in addressing underpayment issues and non-compliance in large corporates.
The FWO has been successful in its litigation, securing more than $2.7 million in court-ordered penalties, including penalties for:
- Breaches relating to the JobKeeper program;
- Underpayment of parental leave entitlements, annual leave entitlements, casual loading, and weekend penalty rates; and
- Breaches of record-keeping laws including providing misleading or falsified records.
The FWO has indicated that in 2022-23, it will prioritise the following sectors and issues:
- fast food, restaurants and cafes
- sham contracting
- large corporate and university sectors
- contract cleaning
All employers, including those in the priority sectors, should take proactive steps to ensure that they are complying with workplace laws. If you are unsure where to start, the Workplace Law Team at MST Lawyers is happy to help. Please contact us today by email at email@example.com or by phone +61 3 8540 0200.