The Fair Work Ombudsman has begun auditing 1000 randomly selected businesses across Australia, as part of a new campaign to ensure employers have the basics right in their workplaces.

The hospitality industry is among the “hotspot” sectors of concern identified by Fair Work, with fast food venues, restaurants and cafés set to be targeted in the Workplace Basics campaign.

Fair Work inspectors will check time and wage records and ensure businesses meet their obligations to pay workers correctly and follow record-keeping and pay-slip laws.

The Fair Work Ombudsman will be seeking to ensure employers are aware of the significantly higher penalties non-compliant businesses face under law changes passed last year.

Acting Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah says too many businesses are getting the basics wrong.

“Failures to pay correct base hourly, penalty and overtime rates and inadequate or non-existent record-keeping and pay-slips are some of the breaches we consistently see from employers,” she says.

“If a business cannot get the basic requirements right, then there’s going to be a whole host of problems down the track for the workers and also the employer.”

Hannah says while the campaign will have a strong audit and education focus, the Fair Work Ombudsman will use its compliance and enforcement powers where required.

“We will not hesitate to take action at any time where there is evidence of serious, repeated or deliberate breaches, including the commencement of legal proceedings,” she says.

Changes made by the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 mean companies involved in serious contraventions now face penalties of up to $630,000 per contravention. The maximum penalties for individuals are now $126,000 per contravention.

The Act also doubled the maximum penalty for failing to keep employee records or issue pay slips to $63,000 for a company and $12,600 for an individual, and tripled the maximum penalty for knowingly making or keeping false or misleading employee records to $12,600 for an individual.

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