FWO audits construction industry

Hundreds of construction businesses will come under scrutiny as part of a new national campaign

The Fair Work Ombudsmen is undertaking a large-scale audit of the Australian construction industry following more than 2000 complaints by construction workers last year.

Hundreds of construction businesses will come under scrutiny as part of a new national campaign announced by the FWO last month.

Construction is consistently one of the top industries generating requests for assistance from employees, while the FWO claims to have identified workplace contraventions in about 50% of cases reported in 2013.

Inspectors will check that employers are paying the correct minimum hourly rates, penalty and overtime rates and allowances. Compliance with record-keeping and pay slip obligations and other workplace laws will also be monitored.

Up to 700 businesses across every capital city and selected regional areas will be earmarked for auditing, with most chosen at random, alongside some employers with a history of non-compliance. Some site visits are planned, with potential for on-the-spot fines of up to $2550, while serious misconduct (i.e. warranting of legal action) can leave companies penalised by up to $51,000 per contravention and individuals up to $10,200 per contravention.

Deputy Fair Work Ombudsman (Operations) Michael Campbell hopes the pro-active campaign will help improve compliance and drive behavioural change.

“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,” Mr Campbell says.

“Where we find problems, we will endeavour to identify the cause. This will help to inform our compliance and education efforts in the future.”

Both residential and commercial builders will be monitored, as well as electricians, plumbers, painters and decorators, tilers and carpenters, bricklayers, concreters, landscapers and plasterers.

“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,” says Mr Campbell.

Construction businesses should review their compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009 and their applicable Modern Award(s) or Enterprise Agreement(s).

Helpful online tools can be found at www.fairwork.gov.au, including PayCheck Plus, which assists business owners and employees to determine the correct award and minimum wages for their industry, templates for pay slips and time-and-wages records, plus a range of fact sheets on workplace entitlements.

Employers and employees seeking assistance can visit the website or contact the Fair Work Info line on 13 13 94.