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$580,000 BACK PAID: Wages returned to nearly 1,000 workers

A woman in front of a computer puts her head in her hands.
Nearly a thousand underpaid staff got their money back. (Photos: Getty)

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has recovered more than $580,000 in unpaid wages for nearly 1,000 workers after it found several Australian workplaces failed to comply with workplace laws.

Inspectors visited 1,385 businesses across Victoria, NSW and Queensland across the accommodation, hospitality, and retail sectors.

They found that more than a fifth (22 per cent) of all audited businesses didn’t pay their employees properly, with 15 per cent in breach of non-monetary obligations such as failing to provide proper payslips and failing to keep proper employment records.

Among the 209-364 businesses inspected across Shepparton, Latrobe-Gippsland, Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven, Ipswich and Wide Bay, compliance rates across each region ranged from 52 per cent to 63 per cent.

The Ombudsman clawed back an average of $600 for each underpaid employee, and found the most common workplace law breach was underpaying the minimum hourly rate as well as overtime and penalty rates.

FWO Sandra Parker said the inspectors targeted businesses based on employees who had tipped them off, several of whom were vulnerable to exploitation because of their young age or visa status.

“It is unacceptable that almost half of the businesses we visited were simply unaware of their obligations under workplace laws and were not paying the lawful minimum hourly wage,” Parker said in a statement.

The Ombudsman will revisit the businesses and implement “appropriate compliance and enforcement action” for repeat offenders, she added.

On top of the recovered wages, the FWO has also issued 39 Formal Cautions warning bosses about the consequences of further non-compliance.

27 on-the-spot fines, some to the tune of $5,960, were also issued for breaching payslip and record-keeping requirements.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman provides free assistance to employers so ignorance is never an excuse for underpaying your staff.

“This outcome is an important reminder to businesses that they must have robust processes in place to ensure they’re complying with workplace laws. Any employers with concerns should contact us before we conduct a surprise visit to their premises,” Parker said.

Employees who want to reach out to the Fair Work Ombudsman can lodge an enquiry through their account on the FWO’s website.

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