By James Atkinson

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) will target 1,000 pub, bar and accommodation employers next year as part of a national education and compliance program, a leading employment relations consultant has warned.

Workforce Guardian managing director David Bates said hospitality industry employers should be wary of the Fair Work campaign as similar initiatives undertaken by the FWO have resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars in back-payments for employees and penalties for employers.

Penalties of up to $33,000 per breach can ultimately be imposed, even where the breaches are accidental or result from employers relying on advice previously received from the FWO itself.

The Fair Work Ombudsman will contact more than 1000 accommodation providers, pubs, taverns and bars throughout Australia and ask them to supply employment records for audit. 

Fair Work inspectors will check that employers are paying workers correct minimum rates of pay, penalty rates, loadings and allowances and are complying with their record-keeping and pay slip obligations. Employers in every state and territory will be audited.

The focus on accommodation providers, pubs, taverns and bars is the first stage of a wider three-year campaign focussing on the hospitality industry. Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson says the hospitality industry has again been selected for a national campaign because it employs hundreds of thousands of workers and generates a large number of complaints each year. 

The FWO conducted a national education and compliance campaign in the hospitality industry back in 2008, auditing 664 employers nationally. Legally-empowered Fair Work inspectors found that 36 per cent of employers were not compliant with workplace laws and they recovered a total of $1.6 million in back-pay for 4679 underpaid employees nationally.

Bates said Workforce Guardian is currently encouraging and assisting its clients in the hospitality industry to self-audit using the resources it provides and to check every aspect of their employees' work and pay conditions to avoid massive penalties.

He said there are many simple steps that can be taken to help guard against legal action by former employees and prosecution by the FWO, including:

• using carefully prepared, comprehensive and fully-compliant employment contracts for all employees, regardless of whether they are full-time, part-time, casual or fixed-term;

• keeping accurate and detailed notes regarding all employer-employee interactions;

• rolling out comprehensive workplace policies and procedures which clearly detail employee obligations;

• ensuring employees are both disciplined and dismissed in accordance with processes that are compliant with the Fair Work laws; and

• making sure all employees receive a level of pay that is at least equal to the applicable modern Award rate or, where no Award applies, to the National Minimum Wage.

Bates added that employers must also ensure that time and wages records and payslips contain all of the mandatory information required by the Fair Work Act.

Workforce Guardian has prepared a comprehensive checklist for its subscribers operating in the hospitality industry. Further information is available on the Workforce Guardian website.

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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