Fines and Penalties: Fair Work Act 2009

Most businesses - including small businesses - are now covered by Australian employment laws including the Fair Work Act 2009 and Fair Work Regulations 2009.

Businesses who fail to comply with these laws risk big fines and penalties, expensive back-pay orders, damaging employee claims and personal fines for accessorial liability.

Recent Prosecutions - Fair Work Breaches

Recent Prosecutions - Accessorial Liability

Fair Work Inspectors

Fair Work Inspectors are government officials appointed by the Fair Work Ombudsman. They have the power to enter a workplace at any time during working hours,  or at any other time that the  Fair Work Inspector believes is necessary for  compliance purposes,  if they reasonable believe:

  • the Fair Work Act 2009 or a Fair Work instrument (e.g. an award or agreement) applies to the workplace
  • records or documents relevant to compliance are on the premises (including documents on a computer).

On the spot fines

Fair Work Inspectors may issue on the spot infringement notices where they reasonably believe an employer has contravened the record-keeping and pay slip obligations contained in the Fair Work Act 2009 and the Fair Work Regulations 2009.

The maximum fines payable from an infringement notice are:

  • $630 per contravention for an individual
  • $3150 per contravention for a body corporate.

In 2018-19, Fair Work Inspectors issued almost $500,000 in on-the-spot fines > Read more.

Court ordered penalties

Fair Work Inspectors can also recommend taking matters to court. If this happens and litigation is successful, employers may face court orders, including:

  • penalties of up to $12,600 per contravention for an individual
  • penalties of up to $63,000 per contravention for a body corporate
  • orders to pay the employee what they're owed (plus interest)
  • orders granting an injunction or interim injunction
  • orders awarding the employee compensation for loss suffered
  • orders to reinstate an employee, which may mean the employee must be given their job back
  • orders to correct the discrimination.

In 2018-19, the Fair Work Ombudsman secured over $4.4 million in court-ordered penalties > Read more

Risk of Personal Fines

HR managers, payroll and administration personnel and advisors may be liable as an accessory if their employer breaches the Fair Work Act.

  • Are you responsible for HR, payroll or administrative functions?
  • Do you try and obtain accurate advice?
  • Do you alert clients to possible breaches?
  • Do you actively question instructions if you have doubts regarding legality?

If not, you may be at risk of personal fines under Section 550 of the Fair Work Act 2009: Avoid personal fines for accessorial liability

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