Fair Work’s audit on childcare operators gets under way

The Fair Work Ombudsman has announced its crackdown on childcare centres will commence in October, with the number of businesses to be audited in each state confirmed.

Nationally, the watchdog will inspect 350 childcare businesses to ensure compliance with workplace laws, focusing on correct payment of wages and record-keeping.

Queensland will carry the weight of the audit, with up to 100 businesses to be initially inspected. Up to 60 centres will be reviewed in Victoria, 35 in the ACT, 30 in South Australia, 30 in Western Australia, 15 in Tasmania and 12 in the Northern Territory.

The campaign follows a high number of complaints to the Fair Work Ombudsman from childcare workers over recent years.

The crackdown was first announced in July, following a flurry of complaints from employees in the sector regarding wages, job misclassification and failure to pay termination entitlements among other issues.

Approximately 400 complaints were made to the FWO in the childcare sector during financial year 2012-13.

These complaints resulted in 123 workers being repaid an approximate total of $255,000 in wages.

In addition to the auditing, the FWO will provide information on its website to help businesses comply with the Children’s Services Award 2010, the Fair Work Act 2009 and the Fair Work Regulations 2009.

In July it reported that long day care centres will be the key focus, along with preschools, after-school care and occasional care centres.

Ombudsman Natalie James said 14,000 businesses had been notified of the campaign, and sent information packs as to the latest regulations.

“A key part of the role of the Fair Work Ombudsman is to educate and help businesses, particularly those small businesses which don’t have the benefit of in-house HR staff, about how to comply with workplace laws, and that’s what we’ll be doing when we visit these childcare centres next month – we’ll be helping them get it right,” James said.

“We’re encouraging all employers in the industry to conduct their own self-audit of compliance with workplace law, particularly payment of wages, using the resources and information we have provided.”

The FWO reported that the childcare sector employs around 140,000 staff nationally, of which 96% are female and around 25% are aged up to 24 years old.

“We are mindful that this is an industry which employs large numbers of young people who can be considered vulnerable in the workplace because they may not be fully aware of their entitlements or where to go for information and advice,” James said.

When the audit was first announced, Early Childhood Australia chief executive officer Samantha Page told SmartCompany the organisation supported the campaign. Page said childcare businesses can experience confusion about their requirements due to the scale and complexity of the industry.

“For a sector of its size there will always be mistakes made, and we support the sector being given more support around wages and conditions,” Page said.

United Voice National President Michael Crosby agreed that the FWO’s campaign was a good start to improvements in the sector.

“The education campaign is the right place to start,” he told SmartCompany in July.


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