Employment news: EOWW Act review; Ombudsman acts

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Employment news: EOWW Act review; Ombudsman acts

Review of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act; Chinese chef underpaid $47,000; and ski fields targeted.

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Review of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act; Chinese chef underpaid $47,000; and ski fields targeted.
 
Review of the Equal Opportunity for Women in the Workplace Act
 
A Federal Government has announced a review that will examine the effectiveness of the Equal Opportunity for Women in Workplace Act 1999 (EOWW Act).
 
The review will:
  • examine the role that the EOWW Act and Agency have in gathering and reporting on workplace data
  • examine the contribution that the EOWW Act has made to increasing women’s employment opportunities and advancing women’s equality in the workplace
  • consider the effectiveness of the EOWW legislation and arrangements in delivering equal opportunity for women
  • provide advice on practical ways in which the equal opportunity for women framework could be improved to deliver better outcomes for Australian women.
  • consider opportunities to reduce the cost of existing regulation and/or ways to ensure that any new legislation is cost-effective and well-targeted
  • consider the EOWW Act and Agency within the framework of existing and proposed workplace-related and human rights legislation and policy
  • have regard to the effects of the EOWW Act, or any proposed recommendations resulting from this review on the economy, the labour market, business competitiveness, social inclusion and the general well-being of the Australian community.
 
Chinese chef underpaid $47,000; and ski fields targeted
 
The former owner of a Canberra restaurant, which underpaid a Chinese chef $47,000 in only 12 months, has been fined $30,000 — and has to pay the chef's missing wages.
 
The chef had been employed by Greenstone Australia Pty Ltd when it ran the Four Rivers Sichuan Chinese Restaurant.
 
As well as penalising the company, the Federal Court in Canberra has also imposed a $4000 penalty on director Peisan Guan, of Kaleen, ACT, for his involvement in the underpayment.
 
The penalties and order for back-pay follow an investigation and prosecution by the Federal Workplace Ombudsman.
 
On 457 visa
 
The underpaid chef, who has returned to China, worked at the restaurant from June 2006 to June 2007 while in Australia on a 457 visa.
 
Workplace Ombudsman executive director Michael Campbell said the case sends a strong message to employers who recruit international workers that they must comply with workplace laws.
 
Workplace inspectors investigated the Four Rivers Sichuan Chinese Restaurant in 2007 and discovered it had failed to pay the chef the penalty rates he was entitled to for weekend, overtime and night work.
 
Campbell said inspectors concluded that the chef — who was working 55 hours a week — had been paid just $36,405 for 12 months work but should have received $84,033.
 
‘We decided to launch a prosecution in this matter because of the significant underpayment of a vulnerable worker,’ he said.
 
‘The community and the courts have shown that this sort of behaviour will simply not be tolerated.’
 
Complaints led to ski fields probe
 
Workplace inspectors will also target dozens of businesses in the Snowy Mountains this month to ensure ski season workers are being paid properly.
 
The Ombudsman has announced plans to randomly audit around 70 resorts, hotels, motels, restaurants, bars and retail outlets.
 
Businesses at Jindabyne, Perisher and Thredbo will come under scrutiny to ensure they are keeping proper time-and-wages records for staff.
 
Workplace Ombudsman executive director Michael Campbell said the aim of the campaign is to ensure short-term workers employed for the winter ski season are being paid their full entitlements — including the correct hourly rate, allowances, weekend and shift penalty rates.
 
Provide records
 
‘Businesses selected for investigation may be asked to provide employment records for the 2008 ski season and this year’s ski season,’ he said.
 
Campbell said the campaign has been prompted by an increase in complaints from NSW snowfields workers.
 
‘Given the higher incidence of complaints and the fact that the snowfields attract many young, unskilled and inexperienced workers who could be vulnerable to exploitation, we feel that a targeted education and compliance campaign is warranted,’ he said.
 
Campbell says inspectors will work to recover money for any workers found to have been underpaid and will assist businesses to rectify problems identified.
 
Education seminar
 
As part of the campaign, inspectors will conduct an educative seminar for employers at the Snowy Region Visitors Centre at Jindabyne on Thursday, 18 June, from 6 pm to 9 pm.
 
The NSW campaign follows a similar exercise in Victoria last year.
 
The Workplace Ombudsman audited 45 businesses in the Victorian snowfields last season and recovered $22,000 for 38 casual workers who had been underpaid.
 
On 1 July, the Workplace Ombudsman will become the Fair Work Ombudsman within Fair Work Australia.
 
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