Workplace Ombudsman starts today - with new powers

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Workplace Ombudsman starts today - with new powers

Australia's new Workplace Ombudsman (WO) begins work today with more staff and wider powers than the Office of Workplace Services (OWS) which it replaces.

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Australia's new Workplace Ombudsman (WO) begins work today with more staff and wider powers than the Office of Workplace Services (OWS) which it replaces.

The first Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson (who previously headed the OWS), said the WO would have a greater focus on vulnerable workers.

Staff increased to 400

Wilson said the new watchdog is more accessible, with staff increased to almost 400, including Workplace Inspectors based at 26 shopfront locations in regional and metropolitan Australia, and a greatly enhanced new website with more tools and resources to help all Australians.

'The increased number of Workplace Inspectors has a brief to take compliance out to the workplace - we will not simply be waiting for claims to be made,' Wilson said.  'We have a special mandate to protect vulnerable workers such as youth, and more focus on preventing duress in agreement making.'

'Valuable' new powers 

Wilson said the WO has been given new powers that will be valuable weapons in the enforcement of workplace rights, including:

  • Ensuring employers comply with their obligations for the new Fairness Test including recovery of underpaid entitlements as well as litigate for penalties
  • Prohibition on dismissing an employee for the sole or dominant reason that an agreement fails, or may fail, the fairness test
  • A power to 'inquire' into matters that might be contrary to Commonwealth Legislation
  • Prohibition on coercing an existing employee to agree to modify or remove a protected award condition
  • Prohibition against duress where an employer who has purchased a business requires an existing employee of that business to make an AWA as a condition of ongoing employment
  • A power to refer matters found to other relevant authorities such as migration officers, Commonwealth officers and to State Workplace Relations Officials

Contact details

The WO can be contacted:

  • Over the telephone  -  call the Workplace Ombudsman Help Line on 1300 724 200 to lodge a complaint for the cost of a local call
  • Over the internet  -  visit the website to lodge a complaint online, use the 'Live Help' secure online chat link to an Adviser and access a range of information resources
  • By email -  via a special 'Contact Us' email form available at the WO website
  • By post -  address your letter to the Workplace Ombudsman at GPO Box 9887 in your capital city, or
  • In person  -  visit one of the offices located in each capital city and in 18 regional areas across the country.  Find your nearest office at the WO website.

Further details of how the new WO will operate can be found at this website.

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