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Wage Inspectorate helps 15,000 Victorians in first year

More than 15,000 Victorians received help from Wage Inspectorate Victoria during its first 12 months, the regulator’s end of financial year figures show.

Sunday, 17 July 2022 at 10:05 pm

Most requests for help came through phone calls from employees and businesses seeking information about long service leave, child employment, wage theft and owner-driver laws.

295 Victorians claimed they were underpaid long service leave and $309,367 was recouped with the regulator's help, taking the total recovered over the past 4 years to more than $1.5 million.

The Wage Inspectorate also took strong action in the courts, with seven matters before court during the financial year, including its successful action against Coles Supermarkets that led to more than 4000 workers being paid back in excess of $700,000 in long service leave.

The financial year figures show that 7758 permits were issued to employers of children under 15 years and that 329 child employment compliance checks and investigations were conducted. The regulator's child employment team also conducted almost 100 field visits and sent over 200 letters to businesses suspected of employing children under 15 years to educate them about the law.

In one of the most serious cases taken to court, a travelling circus pleaded guilty to three charges, admitting it breached the law by employing Chinese nationals as acrobats without a mandatory child employment permit. One of the children spent 10 days in hospital after being hit by a trapeze.

The Wage Inspectorate also commenced intelligence-led, criminal wage theft investigations using the powers granted under Victoria's new wage theft laws, including executing search warrants, issuing compulsory notices, entering premises and seizing evidence.

Hirers of owner-drivers were audited too, with the Wage Inspectorate checking compliance with Victoria's owner-driver and forestry contractor laws for 259 individual drivers.

The retail, hospitality, manufacturing and services industries were the most likely to call the Wage Inspectorate. About 3000 calls came from employers seeking to understand their obligations, with employees, parents or people calling on behalf of a worker or business making up the rest.

The entertainment, retail, and hospitality industries accounted for over half of all child employment permits applied for. While Victoria came in and out of COVID-19 restrictions, officers supported applicants with advice about how business openings and closures would affect their permits.

More than 286,000 people accessed the Wage Inspectorate's online tools, with its long service leave, child employment and wage theft pages the most popular resources.

Below are quotes attributable to Robert Hortle, Commissioner of Wage Inspectorate Victoria: