Record amounts of worker back-payments recovered by Fair Work Ombudsman
The Sector > Quality > Compliance > Record amounts of worker back-payments recovered by Fair Work Ombudsman

Record amounts of worker back-payments recovered by Fair Work Ombudsman

by Freya Lucas

October 26, 2022

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) recovered more than $532 million for 384,805 underpaid workers in 2021-22 – a record sum of back-paid wages and entitlements for a record number of employees, some of whom work or worked in the early childhood education and care (ECEC) sector. 


The recoveries, detailed in the workplace regulator’s latest Annual Report, are three times higher than the previous record recoveries in 2020-21, and more than quadruple that achieved in 2019-20.


More than half of the year’s recoveries came from large corporate employers, who back-paid nearly $279 million to more than 267,000 employees. This was six times the amount returned from large corporations in the previous financial year.


“The Fair Work Ombudsman has created an environment that expects large corporates to prioritise compliance,” said Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker, noting that the agency’s consistent work across many years addressing underpayments in Australia’s large corporations had hit significant milestones in 2021-22.


“Combined with stronger, targeted compliance and enforcement action across all our work, the result has been another record amount of wages back in workers’ pockets,” Ms Parker added.


“All employers must prioritise putting in place systems and getting the advice they need to ensure they are paying workers their lawful entitlements. Those who are doing the wrong thing, including large corporates, are being found out – and we don’t hesitate to take enforcement action where appropriate.”


In 2021-22, the FWO enforced 137 new litigations – 80 per cent more than the year before. This is a record number of litigations for the FWO and the first time it has filed 100 litigations in a year.


In concluded cases, the agency secured about $2.7 million in court-ordered penalties, of which about $1.8 million were from matters involving exploited migrant workers. 


The FWO entered into nine Enforceable Undertakings with businesses, one of which was ECEC provider C&K, recovering a total of $56.4 million for workers  through extensive investigations and complex calculations that uncovered the full extent of underpayments.


C&K  self-reported underpayments to the Fair Work Ombudsman in October 2020 following an internal review which identified that 1,336 current and former employees were underpaid a total of $209,168 between July 2013 and September 2020, with individual underpayments up to $5,632.


Since the enforceable undertaking C&K has updated payroll rules to apply the correct interpretations of the current Enterprise Agreement to avoid underpayments happening again.


Employers and employees can visit or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50. Issues can be anonymously reported in English or another language here.


To view the annual report, please use this link

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