The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has today announced a new national campaign focusing on Australian construction businesses.
The campaign is set to monitor builders in both residential and commercial sectors, as well as electricians, plumbers, painters and decorators, tilers and carpenters, bricklayers, concreters, landscapers and plasterers.
Fair Work inspectors will be targeting employers that are not paying their workers correct rates, including minimum hourly rates, penalty rates, overtime rates and allowances.
Appropriate record keeping and pay slip obligations will also be targeted.
“Construction is consistently one of the top industries generating requests for assistance from employees,” says the FWO.
2013 saw the independent statutory office receive over 2,000 complaints, finding workplace contraventions in almost half of all cases.
“While our focus is on ensuring employees receive their lawful wages and entitlements, we want to understand the underlying causes of non-compliance in the construction industry,” says Deputy Fair Work Ombudsman (Operations) Michael Campbell.
“Where we find problems, we will endeavour to identify the cause. This will help to inform our compliance and education efforts in the future.”
The FWO will set its sights on up to 700 randomly selected construction businesses in every capital city and regional areas. Fair Work inspectors will also be taking part in some site visits.
While Campbell says the FWO is willing to assist employers found to have workplace contraventions, he warns that serious or repeat offenders, or those refusing to co-operate, may find themselves receiving serious penalties.
Inspectors have the power to issue employers on-the-spot fines of up to $2,550. More serious matters warranting legal action can see companies penalised up to $51,000 per contravention and individuals up to $10,200 per contravention.
Campbell says the office intends to ensure the industry’s young employees, in particular, are being treated fairly.
“We are conscious that the construction industry is one of the biggest employers of young, full-time workers in Australia and they can be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their workplace rights or are reluctant to complain,” he said.