The Fair Work Ombudsman has announced that a record $532 million in unpaid wages and entitlements was recovered for more than 384,000 workers in 2021-22.
The recoveries sum was more than three times that of last year’s record and benefitted five times the number of workers across the nation.
Deputy Fair Work Ombudsman – Policy and Communication Kristen Hannah announced the figures in a speech to the Policy-Influence-Reform (PIR) conference in Canberra, and said they were good news for workers and compliant businesses.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman’s strengthened compliance and enforcement approach has seen another record amount of backpaid wages for Australian workers in the last financial year,” Ms Hannah said.
“This is a great result for the workers who have been reunited with their withheld wages, and also for the businesses that pay correctly and are no longer at a disadvantage as a result.”
More than half of the recoveries – almost $279 million – came from large corporate employers.
“This is the result of the sustained hard work that our agency has done to create an environment that encourages large corporates to prioritise compliance,” Ms Hannah said.
The long list of major employers embroiled in wage scandals continues to grow – Coles, Woolworths, Target, Qantas, Michael Hill, Caltex, Spotless, 7-Eleven, Top Juice, Bunnings, Biada, Wesfarmers, Commonwealth Bank, George Calombaris, Pizza Hut, Rockpool Dining Group, Hungry Jacks, Subway, Touchpoint Media and many others.
The Fair Work Ombudsman also currently has about 50 investigations underway into large corporates that have self-reported underpayments, including some of Australia’s largest companies.
In 2021-22, the federal workplace regulator filed a record 137 litigations, part of efforts to hold to account employers who had allegedly breached workplace laws. This was an almost doubling of the number of new matters put into court the year before.
New litigations included those against the Commonwealth Bank and Commsec, and Coles Supermarkets, which are ongoing.