The Fair Work Ombudsman is auditing 200 businesses in Queensland’s Ipswich region as part of a new proactive compliance and education campaign.

Fair Work Inspectors are auditing time-and-wage records of randomly selected businesses in the manufacturing, hospitality and retail sectors, as well as a range of other industries.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James (pictured) said the Agency recovered $190,000 for 44 workers in the Ipswich region in the 2015-16 financial year and the region has a high unemployment rate and a high proportion of young workers.

“We are conscious that these factors can result in workers being more vulnerable to exploitation and potentially being asked to accept conditions that fail to meet legal requirements,” James said.

“It is important that we are proactive about checking that employees are receiving their full lawful entitlements and improving compliance in the Ipswich region.”

James said the campaign will also involve Fair Work Inspectors educating employers on their obligations and providing them with advice about how the Fair Work Ombudsman can help them to build a culture of compliance in their workplaces.

Employers found to be non-compliant will be assisted to rectify their issues and put processes in place to ensure future compliance.

Enforcement action is also possible in the most serious cases and where employers refuse to co-operate.

Local employer groups, including councils and business associations, have been contacted to seek their assistance in promoting the campaign.

James said the Agency is also focused on assisting workers who are new to the workforce because they can be vulnerable if not fully aware of their rights and are often reluctant to complain.

Fair Work has been putting the spotlight on foodservice businesses in recent years, and just last week it was revealed that a Coffee Club café franchisee in Brisbane would face court for allegedly requesting an overseas worker repay $18,000 of his wages and threatening to cancel his 457 visa if he refused.

The operators of a chain of fast food sandwich outlets in Sydney were also penalised more than $87,000 for exploiting overseas workers and using false records.

“I want to make it clear that the lawful obligations to pay minimum wage rates, keep appropriate employment records and issue pay slips apply to all employers in Australia and they are not negotiable,” James said at the time.

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