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Fines & Penalties: Fair Work Act

Better HR helps you avoid on the spot fines and court ordered penalties for breaching Australian employment laws.


Most businesses – including small businesses – are now covered by Australian employment laws including the Fair Work Act 2009 and Fair Work Regulations 2009.

Businesses who fail to comply with these laws risk big fines and penalties, expensive back-pay orders, damaging employee claims and personal fines for accessorial liability.


Fair Work Inspectors

Fair Work Inspectors are government officials appointed by the Fair Work Ombudsman. They have the power to enter a workplace at any time during working hours, or at any other time that the Fair Work Inspector believes is necessary for compliance purposes, if they reasonable believe:

  • the Fair Work Act 2009 or a Fair Work instrument (e.g. an award or agreement) applies to the workplace
  • records or documents relevant to compliance are on the premises (including documents on a computer).


On the spot fines

Fair Work Inspectors may issue on the spot infringement notices where they reasonably believe an employer has contravened the record-keeping and pay slip obligations contained in the Fair Work Act 2009 and the Fair Work Regulations 2009.

The maximum fines payable from an infringement notice are:

  • $630 per contravention for an individual
  • $3150 per contravention for a body corporate.

Last financial year, Fair Work Inspectors issued almost $500,000 in on-the-spot fines


Court ordered penalties

Fair Work Inspectors can also recommend taking matters to court. If this happens and litigation is successful, employers may face court orders, including:

  • penalties of up to $12,600 per contravention for an individual
  • penalties of up to $63,000 per contravention for a body corporate
  • orders to pay the employee what they’re owed (plus interest)
  • orders granting an injunction or interim injunction
  • orders awarding the employee compensation for loss suffered
  • orders to reinstate an employee, which may mean the employee must be given their job back
  • orders to correct the discrimination.

Last financial year, the Fair Work Ombudsman secured over $4.4 million in court-ordered penalties.


Personal Fines

HR managers, payroll and administration personnel and advisors may be liable as an accessory if their employer breaches the Fair Work Act.

  • Are you responsible for HR, payroll or administrative functions?
  • Do you try and obtain accurate advice?
  • Do you alert clients to possible breaches?
  • Do you actively question instructions if you have doubts regarding legality?

If not, you may be at risk of personal fines under Section 550 of the Fair Work Act 2009.


How Better HR helps:

Better HR provides the essential HR tools and advice that every business needs.

Delivered via an affordable annual subscription, Better HR makes it easier and more affordable to manage HR and compliance with confidence.

Used correctly, Better HR can help you:

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