The Commonwealth parliament has recently passed the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 (Cth), which amends the Fair Work laws, and aims to protect vulnerable workers (seemingly undefined, but relating mostly to migrant workers) from exploitation at the hands of their employers.
In particular, this act protects workers by;
Introducing a higher scale of penalties for “serious contraventions” of prescribed workplace laws.
Increasing penalties for record-keeping failures.
Making franchisors and holding companies responsible for underpayments by their franchisee or subsidiaries where they knew or ought reasonably to have known of the contraventions and failed to take reasonable steps to prevent them. These new responsibilities only apply where the franchisors or holding companies have a significant degree of influence or control over their business networks.
Prohibiting employers from unreasonably requiring their employees to make payments.
Strengthening the evidence-gathering powers of the Fair Work Ombudsman to ensure that the exploitation of vulnerable works can be effectively investigated.
A concern of this act is that the current civil penalties in effect are not enough to adequately deter employers from engaging in illegal employment practices which are likely to lead to a profit. Therefore, a trend of this act is to increase penalties that can be applied against employers to more effectively deter them from unscrupulous practices.
Furthermore, this act enhances the powers of the Fair Work Ombudsman, particularly its evidence-gathering powers, to facilitate investigations. This will help to achieve more positive investigation outcomes and provide the Ombudsman greater variety of options to investigate potential non-compliance with workplace laws.
This article is intended only to provide a summary of the subject matter covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to render legal advice. No reader should action the basis of any matter contained in this article without first obtaining specific professional advice.