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More than 20,000 workers have made anonymous tip-offs about their employers to the Fair Work Ombudsman since 2016

Caleb Triscari /

Small businesses have been put on notice to obey their obligations to staff, with the Fair Work Ombudsman revealing over 20,000 anonymous tip-off claims have been made about dodgy workplaces over the past 18 months.

Since being launched in 2016, the anonymous tip-off service has been providing information to the ombudsman’s office about where to focus its resources and have the most likelihood on cracking down on non-compliant businesses.

Of the complaints, 10,000 were received within the first 11 months of the program’s launch. That number doubled to 20,000 in the following eight months, indicating an increase in the program’s use.

The tip-off service was updated in July to allow workers to report to the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) in 16 languages. Nearly 800 tip-offs have been made in a language other than English, the majority of them in Chinese and Korean.

Hospitality businesses made up 36% of all tip-offs, with complaints in the retail industry the next most-reported.

In a statement, Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said the anonymous reporting tool provides workers the ability to report potential workplace breaches without the risk of backlash from employers.

“We always urge employees to come forward if they have concerns in the workplace, but we appreciate that it can be a hard thing to do,” said James.

“With our anonymous report tool, workers can come to us and tell us what is happening now without the risk of being identified.”

When contacted by SmartCompany, a spokesperson for the Fair Work Ombudsman declined to reveal how many businesses have been investigated as a result of the tip-off service, but said each tip-off is examined.

“Tip offs have led to both audits of specific businesses as well as broader campaigns targeting specific regions, locations and/or industries, securing positive outcomes for workers,” the spokesperson said.

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Caleb Triscari

Caleb Triscari is a former SmartCompany subeditor.

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