Yesterday, the Fair Work Ombudsman (‘FWO’) announced that it had found a horticulture labour-hire employer guilty of multiple breaches of workplace laws, resulting in the employer needing to sign a Court-Enforced Undertaking to backpay an employee $12,933.
The Cherry Farm Breaches
The allegations centre around the payment of wages in cash, and the payments falling well below the entitlements required by the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Manufacturing Award. The employer was also found to have created false and misleading records so that it could disguise the cash payments that had been paid to that particular employee. The employer now must open their books to independent auditors to check to see whether other employees across their business have been paid correctly. The company was also required to pay $5,000 towards the Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Focus of FWO Directly On Horticulture Industry
The FWO has not hidden that fact that it has its sights set on the horticulture industry in Australia. This has come as a result of its “Harvest Trail Inquiry Report” which found that breaches of the Fair Work Act are widespread. They attribute one of the reasons for this is because a number of workers in the industry are migrant workers or international students on visas. In recognition of this issue, the FWO has entered into an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs to allow visa holders to ask for help from the FWO without concerns that their visa will be cancelled.
Misuse of piece meal agreements, the passing over of responsibility from growers to labour hire arrangements, and limited awareness of workplace obligations appear to be the key concerns of the FWO.
Hallett Law specialises in employment and industrial relations law, and also has significant experience in labour-hire arrangements and the laws relating to the same. If you are an employer within the horticulture industry, and would like to know more about your workplace obligations, please do not hesitate to contact us.