Inspectors from the Fair Work Ombudsman are completing audits of 40 businesses from the horticulture industry across Queensland’s Wide Bay region.
Since Tuesday, FWO inspectors have visited farms, labour hire contractors and accommodation providers around the towns of Bundaberg, Mundubbera and Childers.
Time and wage records have been requested to be viewed by inspectors, who have also interviewed growers, contractors and employees to ensure employers are paying staff correctly, keeping correct records and issuing proper pay slips.
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According to FWO intelligence, Queensland’s Wide Bay region is at high risk of being non-compliant with workplace laws.
The number of farms in the area makes it an attractive region to working holiday visa holders who want to extend their visa past a year through required regional work.
Some employers that were found to be non-compliant during a previous inquiry were revisited during these audits.
During last year’s Harvest Trail Inquiry, 75 per cent of businesses investigated in the Wide Bay region were found to have breached workplace laws.
Crackdown on the horticulture sector continues
Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Michael Campbell said the audits were part of a strategy to enforce greater compliance in the industry.
“Following on from the Harvest Trail Inquiry, our inspectors are back on the ground to check employers are complying with their legal obligations under the Fair Work Act, the Horticulture Award and enterprise agreements,” he said.
“If we find non-compliance in the businesses we audit, we will ensure affected employees receive the wages and entitlements owed to them.”
Serious or repeat breaches will prompt “further enforcement action” from the FWO, Campbell added.
Those concerned about speaking out due to their visa status need not be: the Fair Work Ombudsman has an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs that allows visa holders to ask for help without fear of their visa cancellation.
Report an anonymous tip to the FWO on their website or call their Infoline at 13 13 94 for free assistance and advice about workplace rights and obligations.
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