The Dirty Underbelly of the Cleaning Industry

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured back-payments for an underpaid employee in the cleaning industry, and has put measures in place to ensure that the offending company will not make the same mistake again.

The Fair Work Ombudsman launched an investigation into a cleaning company located in remote Victorian town, Vermont, after a staffer lodged a request for assistance. It was found that the company had failed to pay the employee part-time loading, penalty rates for Saturday work and paid meal breaks. The underpayment spanned from 2013 to 2015 and totalled $2,856.

The employer claimed that the underpayment was an inadvertent mistake and is reported to have cooperated with the investigation.

1 – Lets talk our findings

Subsequent the findings, the employer back-paid the employee in full and entered into an Enforceable Undertaking aimed at safeguarding future compliance.

The Undertaking required the employer to take the following steps:

  1. Donation: Donate $1,000 to the Cleaning Accountability Framework, an independent initiative aimed at supporting best practice employment standards in the cleaning industry;
  2. Apology: Issue an apology letter to the employee;
  3. FWO Account: Register an account with FWO and use the Pay and Conditions Tool to determine the correct rates of pay for all employees;
  4. HR Training: Provide managerial and HR staff with payroll compliance training and provide evidence of this to the Fair Work Ombudsman;
  5. Audit: Engage external auditors to assess compliance with workplace laws; and
  6. Notice to Employees: Display an A3 notice in all workplace notifying employees of their contraventions.

2 – Case studies

The case follows ongoing efforts by the Ombudsman to improve compliance with employment law in the cleaning industry. In 2015 spot checks of 578 cleaning companies was undertaken, with 38% found to be non-compliant. In that year alone a total of $763,000 was recovered for 1,200 underpaid cleaning employees.

The problem is partly fuelled by competitive contracting practices in the cleaning industry, and the fact that it consists of a large base of vulnerable workers. Almost half of workers in the cleaning industry were born overseas, many with little understanding of their rights and entitlements.

Final point

Employers who are unsure of their obligations should review the Fair Work Ombudsman website or contact Terri Bell & Co a for a consultation.

For more information, see the Fair Work Website.

IMPORTANT NOTICE – The information contained in this article is not intended to be comprehensive. It is general in nature and is not intended to be used as a substitute for legal or other professional advice. You must seek specific professional advice tailored to your personal circumstances before taking any action based on this article.

Liability limited by a scheme approved under Professional Standards Legislation.

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