Are your cleaning contractors compliant ?

Barely a pass mark for contracting industry’s compliance in latest FWO scrutiny

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie JamesCleaning contractors face ongoing spot checks by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) again this year as it tries to detect and deter deliberate non-compliance with federal workplace laws. Some 62 percent, or 356 of the 578 cleaning businesses scrutinised in the organisation’s latest ‘national campaign’, were found to be fully compliant with their workplace obligations.According to the 12 March press release, the FWO is also working with ‘a forum of key stakeholders to ensure compliance and best practice after finding the industry is characterised by layers of subcontracting, tight margins and a competitive tendering process.

‘Latest data indicates there are almost 25,000 businesses operating in the cleaning services industry in Australia employing almost 100,000 workers.

‘Sixty four percent of cleaners are over 40 (years of age), 55 percent are female, 47 percent were born overseas and 10 percent are students.’

As part of its recent national campaign, the FWO assessed tendering and procurement activities for cleaning services across eight major shopping centres in NSW, SA, Queensland and Victoria. It found that six of seven principal contractors engaged to provide cleaning services across the eight centres were paying their employees correctly.

In a report released yesterday, the Fair Work Ombudsman said, ‘the result is encouraging and it is pleasing to find most property owners playing an active role in ensuring compliance with workplace laws.

‘This behaviour ensures vulnerable employees are receiving the correct entitlements and creating genuine competition for contracts, leading to a level playing field in the industry.’

However, the FWO has warned that those employers that failed to meet their workplace obligations in a 2010 and again in a follow-up campaign will face further auditing this year.

Fair Work inspectors checked the books of 578 cleaning contractors as a follow-up to a 2010 campaign, which recouped almost $500,000 for 900 cleaners.

The latest results reveal a total of 1212 employees – including young workers, overseas workers and students – were found to have been short-changed almost $763,000.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says the findings indicate a need for many cleaning contractors to pay greater attention to wage rates.

James observed that while it was disappointing to find ongoing underpayment in the cleaning industry it was pleasing that all employers rectified non-compliance issues and accepted assistance to remedy their mistakes.

Sixty two percent, or 356 of the 578 cleaning businesses scrutinised, were found to be fully compliant with their workplace obligations.

The remaining employers were found to be either underpaying staff, had record-keeping or payslip contraventions or both.

Three businesses entered into Enforceable Undertakings as an alternative to litigation.

Eight others received a Letter of Caution.

The follow-up campaign included 169 businesses previously audited in 2010.

Of these businesses, the compliance rate increased from 54 percent to 63 percent.

However, James said it was concerning that 20 percent of cleaning contractors audited in both campaigns remained non-compliant.

And that 16 percent who were compliant in 2010 were now non-compliant. James also noted the follow-up campaign identified a total of 354 contraventions of federal workplace laws by 222 businesses. Most of the contraventions (31 percent) related to underpayment of the minimum hourly rate.

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