Retail sector targeted by Fair Work Ombudsman

Posted by Josette Dunn on 1st April 2010

The Fair Work Ombudsman will write to almost 50,000 retailers across the country as part of a national campaign to encourage greater compliance with workplace laws.Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson is urging employers to positively embrace the campaign as an opportunity to improve their understanding of workplace laws.

The retail sector generates more complaints than any other industry – 4200 last year, or almost 20 per cent – and the Agency has prosecuted 39 retail employers in four years.

Key stakeholders, including employer groups and unions, are now being briefed on the campaign and new resources are being developed to assist the industry.

Mr Wilson says the focus of the retail campaign will be to check that employers are paying workers correct minimum rates of pay, penalty rates, loadings and allowances.

“Some businesses think it is okay to require staff to arrive early to prepare a store for opening and stay late to clean up afterwards without paying them for that time – but it’s not, it’s unlawful,” he said.

“We are mindful that this is an industry which employs large numbers of young people and low-paid workers who may be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their workplace rights.

“Retail is consistently the number one source of complaints for us and we are determined to devote considerable resources to assist the industry with its compliance obligations.”

Fair Work inspectors will randomly select 1500 retail outlets throughout Australia who will be asked to supply employment records for audit.

They will include furniture, floor covering, houseware, manchester and textile, electrical and gas, computer, hardware and building supplies, garden supplies, sport and camping equipment, entertainment, toy, book, marine, clothing, footwear, watch and jewellery, department and antique stores, as well as newsagents, pharmacies and florists.

Food retailers will not be included, as they were the focus of a National Food Services Campaign last financial year. Other national campaigns have recently targeted the hospitality sector, security and hair and beauty industries.

“If inspectors find minor or inadvertent contraventions, our first approach is to educate the employer and assist them to voluntarily rectify the issue,” Mr Wilson said.

“Obviously in those cases where a contravention is blatant or employers are not willing to promptly resolve an issue, we may escalate the audit to a full investigation.”

Mr Wilson said his Agency had recouped more than $100 million for underpaid workers since 2006 and 98 per cent of it had been recovered without the need for litigation.

Employers or employees seeking assistance should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit For translations call 13 14 50.