5 June 2019

The former Fair Work Ombudsman has suddenly noticed that big businesses have been ripping off their workers for years — something that went largely unnoticed while she was the regulator charged with enforcing wage laws. Meanwhile her replacement as FWO has announced a new approach for 2019-20, to be built around the radical idea that the regulator should actually use its power to issue compliance notices! The Compliance and Enforcement Policy will be updated in light of the Migrant Workers Taskforce and the Hayne Royal Commission. While this new rhetoric is welcome, it would be wrong to pin our hopes on FWO to tackle wage theft. Its primary function is educating and collaborating with bosses as “customers”, not regulating them — in fact its KPIs set a ten per cent limit on the number of cases where compliance powers are used. (I’ll believe FWO is taking a tougher approach when we see criminal charges for providing fraudulent documents to wage inspectors — it must be the only regulatory agency that treats that kind of blatant crookedness as a civil law issue.)