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The Australian workplace regulator has reported that it recovered more than $532 million for 384,805 underpaid workers in 2021-22 – a record sum of back-paid wages and entitlements for a record number of employees.

The recoveries, detailed in the Fair Work Ombudsman’s Annual Report, are three times higher than the previous record recoveries in 2020-21, and more than quadruple that achieved in 2019-20.

More than half of the year’s recoveries came from large corporate employers, who back-paid nearly $279 million to more than 267,000 employees. This was six times the amount returned from large corporates in the previous financial year.

In total, there were 137 new litigations in 2021-22 – 80 per cent more than the year before. This is a record number of litigations for the Fair Work Ombudsman.

In concluded cases, the workplace regulator secured about $2.7 million in court-ordered penalties, of which about $1.8 million were from matters involving exploited migrant workers. These workers can be vulnerable because they are often unaware of their workplace rights or can be reluctant to speak up.

The workplace regulator entered into nine Enforceable Undertakings with businesses, recovering $56.4 million for workers through extensive investigations and complex calculations that uncovered the full extent of underpayments.

The workplace regulator also issued 2,345 Compliance Notices in 2021-22, with recoveries through these notices up 23 per cent in a year. Fair Work Inspectors also issued 492 Infringement Notices (total fines of $446,037).

The workplace regulator resolved 18,622 workplace disputes between workers and employers in the financial year.