While we know that most employers do the right thing by their staff, the government introduced the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill to help protect vulnerable employees against underpayment, coercion and exploitation.
Changes include: higher penalties for serious contraventions of workplace laws; prohibiting employers demanding ‘cash back’ from their staff; and ensuring franchisees pay their staff responsibly.
There are seven main areas of change outlined in the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017, which are briefly summarised below.
Under the changed laws, franchisors can be held legally responsible if any franchisees aren’t meeting their workplace obligations. All franchisors are encouraged to take steps to ensure every franchisee within their business is compliant to all workplace requirements.
As with any employer, franchisees have to understand their responsibilities when it comes to employing staff. Understanding the correct rate of pay and the right award employees are covered by, are just the beginning. You are also required to keep correct records, including pay slips.
The law has been amended to clarify when employers may and may not ask employees and prospective employees to pay money.
Under the new Fair Work Amendments, employers can’t require an employee or prospective employee to spend their money, or give them (the employer or someone else) money, when:
- it’s unreasonable
- the payment is for the employer’s benefit, or the benefit of someone related to the employer
- for the prospective employee, it’s connected to their potential employment.
This applies to any of the employee’s money, not just the pay they get for working.
Part of the changes include increased penalties for ‘serious contraventions’ of workplace laws. According to Fair Gov Australia, a serious contravention happens when:
- the person or business knew they were contravening an obligation under workplace law
- the contravention was part of a systematic pattern of conduct affecting one or more people.
Reverse onus of proof
Also keep in mind that employers who don’t meet record-keeping obligations (which includes pay slips) and can’t give reasonable excuse will need to disprove allegations in wage claims made in court, according to Fair Gov Australia.
There are also increased penalties that employers can be ordered to pay, such as:
- penalties for giving pay slips they know are false or misleading to their employees
- double the previous maximum penalty for failing to keep employee records or issue pay slips
- triple the previous maximum penalty for knowingly making or keeping false or misleading employee records.
- new penalties also apply for people giving us information or documents they know are false or misleading.
The Fair Work Ombudsman can also apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a ‘FWO notice’ if it is reasonably believed a person or a business has information or documents that will help an investigation and is capable of giving evidence.
A FWO notice is a written document and can be used to require a person or business to:
- give information
- produce documents, or
- attend an interview to answer questions.
If you’re a small business owner, franchisee or franchisor, it is recommended that you research your responsibilities or contact the Fair Work Ombudsman to ensure you are compliant at all times.
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