Fair Work Ombudsman Announces Record Recovery of $532 Million in Unpaid Wages in 2021-22

The Fair Work Ombudsman has announced that a record $532 million in unpaid wages and rights has been recovered for more than 384,000 workers in 2021-22.

The amount is more than three times higher than last year.

“It’s clearly a problem,” said AMP senior economist Diana Mousina.

Deputy Fair Work Ombudsman Kristen Hannah announced the figures in a speech at the Policy-Influence-Reform (PIR) conference this afternoon in Canberra, saying they were good news for employees and companies adhering to the rules.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman’s reinforced compliance and enforcement approach has resulted in another record amount of wage arrears for Australian workers in the past financial year,” said Ms Hannah.

On the other hand, it is also an indication of how big the problem of employee underpayment has become.

More than half of the recoveries — nearly $279 million — came from large employers.

In June, the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) sued Woolworths over “major underpayments” from his salaried managers.

But Woolworths is just one of a long list of major employers who have underpaid their employees, including Wesfarmers, Qantas, Commonwealth Bank, Super Retail Group, Michael Hill Jewelers and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

AMP Capital senior economist Diana Mousina sitting in a chair smiling at the camera.
Diana Mousina says underpayments are “clearly a problem”.(ABC news: Billy Cooper)

The Fair Work Ombudsman currently has about 50 investigations underway into major companies that have self-reported underpayments, including some of Australia’s largest companies.

“I don’t know how long it will take to resolve it,” Ms Mousina said.

“[But] I don’t think it’s a normal part of working in Australia.”

In 2021-2022, the federal workplace supervisor filed a record 137 lawsuits.

This was almost double the number of new cases brought to court a year earlier.

Workers’ wages have become a crucial economic issue.

Labor today filed a request with Fair Work to demand a “significant” increase in the pay of aged care workers, who make up about 2.6 percent of the workforce.

Earlier this year, Fair Work raised the minimum wage by 5.2 percent and compensation wages by 4.6 percent.

Bigger wage increases have become essential for economic growth, as inflation threatens to rise above 7 percent.

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