On 5 September 2017, the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017 passed both Houses of Parliament and will become law once it receives Royal Assent.
Once it is law, the following will apply with immediate effect:
- Increased penalties for breaches of record-keeping and pay slip obligations;
- Increased penalties for ‘serious contraventions’ of workplace laws;
- It will be clear now that employers can’t ask for ‘cashback’ from employees or prospective employees;
- Where an employer cannot show a reasonable excuse for a lack of record keeping or compliance with pay slip obligations, they will need to disprove any wage claims made in court i.e. the onus of proof will be on the employer not the employee; and
- There will be stronger powers for Fair Work Australia and the Ombudsman to collect evidence in investigations and new penalties for an employer giving false or misleading information, or hindering or obstructing an investigation.
Franchise chains in particular will be the most effected, noting the bill was introduced in response to Fairfax Media’s exposure of rampant underpayment and exploitation of vulnerable workers stretching back to a joint Fairfax Media / Four Corners investigation of 7-Eleven as well as subsequent investigations involving Caltex and Domino’s.
The scale of penalties means individuals and businesses can be fined up to 10 times higher for breaches than previously, up to $126,000 for individuals and $630,000 for a corporation.
If you think your business may be impacted, get in touch and we’ll work through a potential strategy with you.