Fair Work audit finds Victorian horse racing industry rife with underpayment

An investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman has revealed 69% of Victorian horse racing businesses are non-compliant with their workplace obligations.

The rate of compliance is the worst of three states audited in a recent national campaign by the Ombudsman, with businesses in New South Wales and Queensland recording compliance rates of 86% and 76% respectively.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has warned horse trainers to double-check the wage rates of their strappers and stable hands, as 15 horse trainers were found to have underpaid a total of 61 of their employees by almost $40,000.

A total of 86 businesses were audited in the campaign, which came about after the Ombudsman received almost 90 complaints from workers in the horse racing industry.

Of the 90 complaints, 84% of them had been received from the eastern states.

A spokesperson for the FWO told SmartCompany Victorian employers regularly did not comply with the requirement to pay casual strappers and stable hands for a minimum of three hours per shift.

“Some Victorian trainers were also failing to issue employees sufficiently detailed pay slips within one day of pay day. Trainers in NSW and Queensland were more compliant with these obligations and these states therefore had higher compliance rates than Victoria,” the spokesperson says.

“The underpayments identified during this campaign were primarily the result of employers’ lack of awareness of their obligations to employees and it was pleasing to see all employers were prepared to voluntarily rectify their contraventions.”

Of the 34 businesses which were non-compliant, 50% had underpaid staff, 24% had non-monetary contraventions, while 26% of businesses had both types.

The amounts recovered from individual businesses ranged from $40 to almost $16,000.

In Victoria a total of 47 employees were owed $19,414, in New South Wales three businesses had underpaid 10 employees a total of $17,038 while in Queensland four employees were owed $3,050.

“Employers were open to our guidance and when our findings were brought to their attention, they voluntarily rectified all contravention. We are therefore hopeful that our intervention will result in increased compliance in the future,” the report says.

“As the program was designed to test allegations received and to gauge compliance rates, we will consider further education and compliance activity in the industry, particularly in Victoria.”

The FWO spokesperson says the Ombudsman aims to educate employers about their obligations whenever a contravention is identified.

“Their preference is to educate employers about their obligations under workplace laws and assist them to put processes in place to ensure future compliance – and that’s what they did throughout this campaign,” the spokesperson says.  

Last year the FWO audited 5600 businesses nationally.

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