Ombudsman calls for accurate pay scales in new awards

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Ombudsman calls for accurate pay scales in new awards

Modern industrial awards must have accurate and up-to-date pay scales that can be enforced to ensure workers are properly paid, the Workplace Ombudsman has told the AIRC.

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Modern industrial awards must have accurate and up-to-date pay scales that can be enforced to ensure workers are properly paid, the Workplace Ombudsman has told the AIRC.

In a submission on the modernisation of awards, Workplace Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson urged the AIRC to safeguard 'genuine agreement' between employers and employees, and to ensure award flexibility clauses allow his office to initiate court action if duress occurs.

Possibility of duress

In a 14-page submission, Wilson warned the Commission there is a possibility of duress without attention to this issue.

In the submission, Wilson highlighted the importance of ensuring that pay scales form part of modern awards, suggesting that the lack of published pay scales for all awards has caused confusion for both employees and employers about their rights and obligations.

'Only a small proportion of employers deliberately underpay their employees,' the submission says. 'Many of the non-compliance cases we have dealt with are the result of honest mistakes, in many cases because the employer has relied on out-of-date or incomplete information.'

Information gap

It says the public interest demands that employers can access 'timely, accurate and unambiguous' information about their obligations and it is now time to close the information gap.

The document suggests a 'shadow' will remain over the capacity of the Workplace Ombudsman to properly and fairly enforce workplace entitlements unless this is done.

The submission also calls for modern awards to be clearly drafted using plain language.

Prosecution difficulty

'Loosely-worded flexibility clauses in awards (and agreements) will not only hinder compliance, but will also render prosecution for breaches more difficult,' it says. 

Figures provided in the submission show that the retail trade has accounted for the most claims to the Workplace Ombudsman over the past two years, followed by property and business services and accommodation and hospitality.

The top three most frequently breached awards are the Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association (Victorian Shops Interim Award 2000), the Clerical Employees Award - State 2002 and the Retail Industry Award - State 2004.

18,000 claims

So far this financial year, the Workplace Ombudsman has received 18,242 workplace claims, started 4598 targeted investigations and recovered more than $25 million for 21,721 employees.

The Industrial Relations Commission is examining award modernisation following a request from the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Julia Gillard, in March.

 
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