More than 15,000 Victorians received help from Wage Inspectorate Victoria during its first 12 months, the regulator’s end of financial year figures show.
Most requests for help came through phone calls from employees and businesses seeking information about long service leave, child employment, wage theft and owner driver laws.
In total, 295 Victorians claimed they were underpaid long service leave and $309,367 was recouped with the regulator’s help, taking the total recovered over the past four years to more than $1.5 million.
The Wage Inspectorate also took strong action in the courts, with seven matters before court during the financial year, including its successful action against Coles Supermarkets that led to more than 4000 workers being paid back in excess of $700,000 in long service leave.
“It’s our vision to create productive and prosperous Victorian workplaces. That means fairer conditions for workers and a level playing field for businesses, so they’re not undercut by law breakers,” Robert Hortle, commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria, said.
“We’ve had a successful and balanced first year, educating businesses and workers about the law and taking appropriate compliance action.
“These have been equal focuses for the new statutory authority.”
The financial year figures show that 7758 permits were issued to employers of children under 15 years and that 329 child employment compliance checks and investigations were conducted.
The regulator’s child employment team also conducted almost 100 field visits and sent over 200 letters to businesses suspected of employing children under 15 years to educate them about the law.
In one of the most serious cases taken to court, a travelling circus pleaded guilty to three charges, admitting it breached the law by employing Chinese nationals as acrobats without a mandatory child employment permit. One of the children spent 10 days in hospital after being hit by a trapeze.
The Wage Inspectorate also commenced intelligence-led, criminal wage theft investigations using the powers granted under Victoria’s new wage theft laws, including executing search warrants, issuing compulsory notices, entering premises and seizing evidence.
“We’re aiming to have an even bigger impact over the next 12 months through our intelligence-led compliance activities, prosecutions and the release of new educational resources, including e-learning courses and multilingual videos, to make complying with the law even easier,” Hortle said.
Hirers of owner drivers were audited too, with the Wage Inspectorate checking compliance with Victoria’s owner driver and forestry contractor laws for 259 individual drivers.
The retail, hospitality, manufacturing and services industries were the most likely to call the Wage Inspectorate.
About 3000 calls came from employers seeking to understand their obligations, with employees, parents or people calling on behalf of a worker or business making up the rest.
The entertainment, retail, and hospitality industries accounted for over half of all child employment permits applied for.
While Victoria came in and out of COVID-19 restrictions, officers supported applicants with advice about how business openings and closures would affect their permits.
More than 286,000 people accessed the Wage Inspectorate’s online tools, with its long service leave, child employment and wage theft pages the most popular resources.
What Wage Inspectorate Victoria does:
- Gives practical advice, information and support to employees and employers.
- Conducts targeted information campaigns.
- Investigates complaints.
- Carries out a range of enforcement functions to ensure the laws are being followed.
- Works with other government agencies to ensure fair employment conditions. This includes the Victorian Labour Hire Authority, which operates a licensing system for labour hire businesses operating in Victoria.
For more information or to get in touch with Wage Inspectorate Victoria, click here.