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Fair Work Ombudsman

Last updated December 2023

This chapter explains the actions that the Fair Work Ombudsman can take to promote and enforce compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth).

What does the Fair Work Ombudsman do?

Definition: Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman

The Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) promotes compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (FW Act) through providing education, information and assistance, and undertaking enforcement action.

The FWO will:

  • educate employees, employers and organisations about their rights, and responsibilities;
  • investigate any act or practice that may be contrary to the FW Act, e.g. invalid contractor arrangements or underpayment of wages;
  • appoint Fair Work inspectors to undertake investigations; and
  • take compliance action against employers, e.g. issue compliance notices or bring legal proceedings against those who do not comply with the FW Act.

When will the FWO conduct an investigation?

The FWO will investigate claims of breaches of the FW Act when it is contemplating compliance action against one or more of the parties involved in the claims.

This will be likely in one or more of the following circumstances:

  • the alleged conduct is serious, e.g. there is evidence that young, migrant or vulnerable employees are exploited;
  • the community would expect the FWO to act;
  • a party faces significant barriers to resolving the matter themselves, e.g. low levels of literacy or comprehension;
  • a party involved has had previous issues with compliance;
  • an alleged breach appears to be deliberate;
  • sufficient information exists to support an argument that a breach has occurred; and/or
  • the amount of underpayment of wages is significant.
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