Wages recovered for Adelaide cleaners

The Fair Work Ombudsman has recovered $18,952 in wages for 29 underpaid employees after it investigated contract cleaning businesses in Adelaide.

Fair Work Inspectors investigated 17 commercial cleaning companies and found that more than half had breached workplace laws.

Businesses were selected for investigation based on intelligence that raised concerns of non-compliance, including being the subject of anonymous tip-offs, customer enquiries or requests for assistance to the FWO.

The cleaning companies provided cleaning to shopping centres and other places in metropolitan Adelaide. Inspectors interviewed cleaners, employers and managers, requested and reviewed records, observed work practices and noted staff numbers to verify employer records.

Of the ten cleaning companies found to be non-compliant with workplace laws, seven had underpaid their employees, two had underpaid their employees and also failed to meet pay slip and record-keeping requirements, and one business breached pay slip and record-keeping laws.

The most common breaches were failures to pay penalty rates, underpayments of minimum hourly rates of pay and failure to make and keep employee records.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the contract cleaning industry was a new compliance and enforcement priority for the agency in 2021-22.

“Contract cleaning is part of an industry that employs a lot of migrant workers, who we know are at higher risk of exploitation. The cleaning sector has a significant history of non-compliance with workplace laws,” Ms Parker said.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman expects all cleaning employers and supply chain businesses to comply with workplace laws.”

In response to the breaches, the FWO issued eight Compliance Notices requiring employers to rectify underpayments, which recovered $18,662. The largest backpayment from one business was $7,852 for nine employees. There were also four Infringement Notices issued for pay slip and record-keeping breaches, resulting in $888 in fines paid.

Businesses were warned that any future non-compliance may lead to higher-level enforcement action.

The FWO has a new targeted contract cleaning webpage with resources for employees, employers and independent contractors, including information on pay, entitlements, record-keeping and resolving workplace problems.

Businesses and building owners can apply for certification of their building’s cleaning supply chain through the industry-led Cleaning Accountability Framework.

In recent months, the FWO has separately secured penalties against one sole trader cleaning business and commenced two other court actions against cleaning companies (media releases in Sydney and the Hunter Region of NSW).

Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace. A free interpreter service is on 13 14 50. Know a workplace not doing the right thing but don’t want to get involved? Report it anonymously – in your language.

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