The Fair Work Ombudsman ("FWO") has announced its strategic priorities for the coming year.

Key focus – supporting employers through COVID-19

The FWO's key focus will be supporting workplaces as they manage the ongoing impacts of COVID-19. It acknowledged that the COVID-19 situation remains precarious with many sectors experiencing significant financial strain as a result of the pandemic. The FWO recognises the key role that small businesses will play in the national economic recovery from COVID-19, and will continue to prioritise assistance to these employers over the coming year.

Compliance and enforcement focus

The FWO has identified the following sectors as key focus areas for compliance and enforcement:

  • Contract cleaning, which the FWO considers is part of an industry with large proportions of migrant workers, low paid and part-time workers at higher risk of exploitation.
  • Hospitality (including fast food restaurants and cafes), in relation to which the FWO reports it has received a significant number of requests for assistance for vulnerable workers.
  • Horticulture, which the FWO says has a history of significant non-compliance, particularly in relation to visa-holders who are at risk of exploitation and complex labour supply chains.

Ongoing areas of focus

Ongoing areas of focus for the FWO include:

  • Enforcement action against large corporate employers for non-compliance with minimum standards. Specifically, the FWO has identified large corporate underpayments as an ongoing priority, citing its legal action against Woolworths to recover back-payments owed to approximately 19,000 employees as one notable example, and has urged large corporates to focus on their compliance with the minimum standards.
  • Compliance and enforcement activities in relation to franchising arrangements and sham contracting.

The FWO's Compliance and Enforcement Priorities can be accessed via this link: https://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/our-role-and-purpose/our-priorities