Fair Work recovered $123 million in unpaid wages for workers in the last financial year alone

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  • The Fair Work Ombudsman released its latest annual report, recovering $123 million for more than 25,000 workers during the last financial year.
  • Included in the recovery was $90 million in underpayments that employers self-reported.
  • “The prevalence and the scale of big corporations underpaying their workers is extremely disappointing and concerning,” Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said in a statement.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia‚Äôs homepage for more stories.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has recouped millions for Australian workers in the last financial year.

FWO released its 2019-2020 Annual Report, revealing that it recovered $123 million for 25,583 underpaid employees. This included $90 million in underpayments self-reported by employers.

In addition, more than $56.8 million was back-paid after investigations and Enforceable Undertakings negotiated with the ombusdman. Plus, the agency recovered $1.7 million in unpaid wages for migrant workers.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said in a statement underpayments from large businesses had been a new challenge for the FWO over the past year.

“The prevalence and the scale of big corporations underpaying their workers is extremely disappointing and concerning,” she said. “We have established a dedicated taskforce within the Fair Work Ombudsman to investigate these matters.”

Several companies have been found to have underpaid staff in the last year, including David Jones, Country Road, Coles, Woolworths and Wesptac.

As of July 1, the FWO had 72 matters before the courts, many of which involved the alleged exploitation of workers. There were 54 new litigations filed – more than twice the number from last year – with half of them involving businesses across the restaurant, fast food and cafe industries.

Fair Work handed out 952 compliance notices – more than three times the number issued last year – and recovered $7.8 million in underpaid wages.

During the onset of the coronavirus, the organisation beefed up resources for frontline services and established a hotline that answered more than 50,000 calls.

When looking at the ombudsman’s court-ordered penalties, this amounted to $4.3 million for the last financial year.

“We will continue our intelligence-led, priority-driven work targeting high-risk sectors and practices, protecting vulnerable workers and educating both employers and employees across Australian workplaces as they recover from the pandemic in the year ahead,” Parker said.

The report comes after Queensland and Victoria passed laws that make wage theft a crime. Employers could face up to 10 years in jail for committing the crime in those states.

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