At least 200 businesses in and around Mount Gambier, Renmark and Murray Bridge are being audited as part of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s latest education and compliance campaign.

Fair Work Inspectors are checking wage and time records of a cross-section of businesses across the South Australia South East region, including those in the retail trade and accommodation and food services sectors.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said that with a large number of employees engaged in low-skilled work and a tightening of labour market conditions, workers in the region may experience particular vulnerabilities.

“The South Australia south-east region has one of the highest rates of disputes lodged by visa holders nationally,” says James.

“We know overseas workers can be vulnerable to exploitation in the workplace due to factors including a lack of awareness about workplace rights and language barriers.

“My agency is undertaking this education and compliance campaign to reinforce to businesses in the region the importance of understanding and complying with their workplace obligations.”

James said that over the two financial years from 2014-15 to 2015-16, her agency had recovered more than $320,000 in back-pay for 179 workers in the region.

Local employer groups, unions and councils have been notified of the campaign.

Fair Work Inspectors will provide advice and assistance to non-compliant employers found to have minor issues caused by genuine mistakes.

By educating businesses about their obligations and assisting them to improve their processes, the Fair Work Ombudsman aims to build a culture of compliance in Australian workplaces.

However James emphasised that any examples of serious non-compliance may lead to enforcement action, including litigation.

“Where businesses refuse to cooperate with my agency, or where our inspectors identify instances of serious or deliberate non-compliance, we will ensure that appropriate action is taken to enforce the law,” says James.

“Employers must be aware that deliberately flouting workplace laws can result in significant consequences.”

Image credit: TripAdvisor 

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