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Nearly 1,000 workers in regional Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria have been back paid more than $580,000 after Fair Work Inspectors uncovered widespread non-compliance with Australia’s workplace laws.

Inspectors visited 1,385 businesses in Latrobe-Gippsland and Shepparton (Vic), Southern Highlands and Shoalhaven (NSW), and Wide Bay and Ipswich (Qld).

A cross-section of industries was targeted, with the accommodation, hospitality and retail sectors a particular focus for the ombudsman.

Inspectors found 22 per cent of all audited business failed to pay their employees correctly, 15 per cent were in breach of non-monetary obligations by not providing proper payslips or keeping proper employment records, and six per cent failed to both pay their employees correctly and meet their non-monetary obligations.

The FWO recovered an average of about $600 per underpaid employee. The most common breach of workplace laws was underpayment of the minimum hourly rate, with inspectors also uncovering underpayment of overtime and penalty rates.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the regulator targeted regions based on intelligence.

“Fair Work Inspectors targeted specific regions after employees contacted us for help, many of whom could be vulnerable to workplace exploitation due to their youth or visa status. It is unacceptable that almost half of the businesses we visited were simply unaware of their obligations under workplace laws and were not paying the lawful minimum hourly wage,” Ms Parker said.

“The FWO will revisit these businesses as part of our ongoing national proactive compliance monitoring programs. Appropriate compliance and enforcement action will be used against employers who continue to breach workplace laws.”

In addition to recovering lost wages, inspectors issued 39 cautions (Formal Cautions), warning employers about the consequences of continued non-compliance, and 27 on-the-spot fines, which involve penalties of $5,960 for breaches of pay slip or record-keeping requirements.

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