Businesses may be audited to reveal possible underpayments

AS many as 1000 cleaning businesses Australia-wide could be audited by the Fair Work Ombudsman next year, as part of a crackdown on underpayments in the industry.

An audit of 376 cleaning businesses two years ago found 149 employers were not compliant with federal workplace laws.

That campaign exposed widespread underpayment of penalty rates, inadequate record-keeping and failure to adhere to minimum shift rules.

Some $500,000 in underpaid workers' entitlements were recovered for 934 cleaning industry employees after the 2010 audit.

Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson said ongoing complaints since the 2010 audit had prompted the FWO to complete a follow-up national campaign.

"We are mindful that this is an industry which employs large numbers of young people and migrant workers who may be vulnerable if they are not fully aware of their workplace rights," he said.

Fair Work investigators will look at minimum entitlements, misclassification of workers, procurement, sham contracting and discrimination.

"The issue of non-compliance with the Fair Work Act through procurement chains is a high priority for the agency in both the private and public sectors and we are continuing to focus on this emerging problem and its far-reaching impact on exploitation in Australian workplaces," Mr Wilson said.

For more information on the audit, go to:


Recent matters finalised by the Ombudsman for cleaners include:

  • $133,000 backpay for 31 cleaners employed to clean a Sydney CBD office building.
  • $90,000 backpay for 16 cleaners employed by an Adelaide company at multiple sites across the metropolitan area.
  • $87,000 backpay for 26 cleaners employed at a motel at Port Lincoln, in South Australia.
  • $83,600 for dozens of cleaners in Hobart, Launceston and Devonport in Tasmania underpaid the minimum hourly rate.
  • $70,000 backpay for 53 cleaners employed to clean a Sydney CBD shopping complex.

SOURCE: Fair Work Ombudsman, 2012.