In the first quarter of the year, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) launched thousands of audits into retail businesses, and found that over a quarter of them were in breach of workplace regulations and laws. Although many of the businesses were doing so unaware of the provisions of 2009’s Fair Work Act, retailers have been ordered to reimburse workers who had been incorrectly paid.

Most of the breaches were related to underpayment, failure to adhere to time and wage requirements or failure to conform with payslip requirements. Other related breaches included incorrectly classifying (and underpaying) their employees, and expecting staff to set up and close outside of trading hours without pay.

All employers should review their legal responsibilities. Where the FWO finds honest mistakes, they do assist and provide advice to employers on how to voluntarily fix them as well as insist that processes and systems change to ensure the mistakes are not made again. Small and medium-sized businesses are particularly at risk, as they traditionally don’t have access to a HR specialist, meaning that business owners have to educate themselves about the laws involved with the Fair Work Act.

If the FWO targets your industry or region, they’ll first write to you and all other employers in that industry or region to tell you about the campaign and give you information about your rights and responsibilities. This gives you the opportunity and resources to check your compliance with workplace laws. About a month after the first letter, the FWO will choose a representative number of employers to undergo a compliance audit.

If you are chosen, you’ll receive an explanation of the audit process and a request for your time and wage records for assessment. The Fair Work Inspector will check your records for contraventions. If there are problems, they’ll ask you first to fix the problem voluntarily. If you don’t fix it, it may progress to a full investigation.

If you’ve been selected for an audit, or you need legal assistance to understand your responsibilities in the workplace, please don’t hesitate to contact the team at The Quinn Group. You can call 1300 QUINNS or submit an online enquiry to book an appointment.