Ombudsman handled 2.4m contacts in 2010–11

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Ombudsman handled 2.4m contacts in 2010–11

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s latest annual report shows that more than 2.4m visitors sought information, assistance and advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman website last financial year.

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The Fair Work Ombudsman’s latest annual report shows that more than 2.4m visitors sought information, assistance and advice from the Fair Work Ombudsman website last financial year.

The agency’s 2010–11 annual report reveals the Fair Work Infoline (open from 8 am to 6 pm weekdays) provided help to more than 825,000 callers.

The popularity of an Online Live Chat service increased by 55%, up to almost 55,000 sessions from the 35,400 the previous year.

Email and postal requests for assistance were also up significantly, rising 61% from 22,500 to 36,400.

Fair Work inspectors completed more than 22,000 educational visits to employers in 2010–11 and provided businesses with more than 32,000 education packs.

New resources
 
New resources were developed in partnership with major employer organisations.

A Shared Industry Assistance Project provided $2.5m in grants to employer and industry groups to educate employers, particularly those running small businesses, about changes to modern awards.

The grants provided for the development of more than 380 individual education products, more than 50 seminars across regional and metropolitan Australia and the availability of 15 Fair Work liaison officers through industry associations.

Additionally, the Fair Work Ombudsman:
  • finalised 22,523 complaints, recovering $21.3m in underpaid entitlements for 9747 employees
  • undertook four national and 28 regional campaigns, recovering a further $4.7m for another 7613 underpaid employees
  • achieved court-ordered penalties of more than $2.1m in 40 litigation matters finalised in 2010–11
  • supported 31 large national enterprises — collectively employing more than 209,000 staff — to provide fairer, compliant workplaces.
Greatest effort
 
Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson’s objective is ‘to expend the greatest effort on the areas of greatest need, especially the employment of young, migrant and other vulnerable workers in workplaces which are not members of industry or employer organisations and the workforce is not unionised’.

He said that when Fair Work inspectors identify a problem and contact a business, most employers check their records, realise a problem has occurred and fix it immediately.

He said the Assisted Voluntary Resolution (AVR) team is now achieving resolution of about half its referrals within the first month.

Mediation
 
The Fair Work Ombudsman is currently trialling the expanded use of mediation for low-level underpayment claims, and more than 30 staff have been trained as mediators.

‘My motivation is to find ways to more quickly and more effectively bring a standard wage complaint to an end,’ Wilson said.

He said most money recoveries are quite low, but traditional investigative methods are labour-intensive and time-consuming.
 
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