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FWO Strategic Priorities for 2020-2021
The Fair Work Ombudsman (the “FWO”) has released the FWO strategic priorities for 2020-2021.
The economic impact of COVID-19 will be considered when supporting workplaces. The priority sectors and issues will be:
• large corporate underpayments;
• fast food, restaurants and cafes;
• the horticulture industry;
• franchise agreements; and
• sham contracting arrangements.
The FWO stated that workplace laws will continue to be applied but in a proportionate and flexible manner during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Compliance and Enforcement Policy has been updated accordingly, expanding the list of its considerations when deciding whether to initiate litigation.
The FWO has said that the financial position, viability and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on businesses will be taken into account when establishing the amount of a contrition payment imposed in any unenforceable undertaking.
The FWO stated “some of our priority sectors have been seriously impacted by the pandemic and are under considerable financial strain. We are mindful that our regulatory efforts do not negatively affect already struggling industries, while also being sensitive to the nuances of each sector and the challenges each will face when recovering from disruption.”
The policy has also been updated to reflect which situations will require self-disclosure and what information should be provided. The FWO will be more likely to litigate in cases involving:
• deliberate and/or repeated non-compliance with Commonwealth workplace laws;
• exploitation of vulnerable workers;
• failure to cooperate with us and fix contraventions after being given the opportunity to do so; and/or
• parties who have a prior history of contraventions who have not taken adequate steps to ensure compliance despite being advised of the consequences in the past.
This announcement reaffirms that large corporate underpayments will continue to be one of the FWO’s strategic priorities. Businesses should be proactive and review their employment systems to identify any areas of non-compliance and take positive steps to rectify any issues identified.
Read more about the FWO’s 2020-2021 Compliance and Enforcement Priorities and Policy here.
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