Fair Work reveals shocking lack of compliance on farms
THE Wide Bay region has been identified as being at the highest risk for non-compliance of workplace laws in the horticultural industry.
Fair Work inspectors are today completing audits of about 40 businesses across the region.
It follows concerns from Fair Work that some employers within the horticulture sector may be breaching workplace laws.
Farms, labour hire contractors and accommodation providers in Bundaberg, Mundubbera and Childers have been visited since the compliance activity began last week.
Inspectors requested time and wage records and completed interviews with growers, contractors and employees to check businesses are paying their staff correctly, keeping and maintaining records and issuing proper payslips.
Acting Fair Work Ombudsman, Michael Campbell, said the audits were designed to raise compliance levels in the horticulture 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," Mr Campbell said.
"We know the region is attractive to visa holders who can be vulnerable in the workplace due to concerns about their visa status or limited knowledge of workplace laws.
"If we find non-compliance in the businesses we audit we will ensure affected employees receive the wages and entitlements owed to them. Where serious or repeat breaches are found we will consider further enforcement action."
Data from the Fair Work Ombudsman shows the region is one of the highest risk horticultural regions in Australia for non-compliance.
With a large number of farms, the area is attractive to working holiday visa holders looking to extend their visa beyond one year through required regional work.
The audits have been informed by a range of sources, including previous compliance history with the Fair Work Ombudsman, anonymous reports and external intelligence.
They include re-visits of some employers that were found to be non-compliant during the Harvest Trail Inquiry. The Inquiry, which the Fair Work Ombudsman published its report on last year, found widespread non-compliance with workplace laws among the horticulture nationally.
During the Harvest Trail Inquiry, workplace law breaches were identified in 75 per cent of investigations in the Wide Bay region, well above the inquiry-wide average of 55 per cent.