How the FWO Let You Down ... Again

In February this year, the team here at Workforce Guardian became aware of a competitor signing up new customers by implying their service was either endorsed by - or somehow linked to - the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO).

It was a clever strategy, which generally involved one of two cleverly designed sales tactics.

The first sees them cold-calling employers and introducing themselves as being from 'Fair Work'. Because this is a generic term (as opposed to the 'Fair Work Ombudsman' or the 'Fair Work Commission') they get away with creating the false impression they are calling from one of these two official government agencies.

They then ask the employer for a meeting to discuss their potential non-compliance with Australian employment laws. The hapless employer - concerned about their potential liabilities - agrees to meet with 'Fair Work'.

A short time later, a representative from a private HR business arrives at the workplace, as agreed. They confirm they have been sent by 'Fair Work' and, at the end of the 'meeting', the employer is asked to sign an expensive, multi-year subscription (including insurance) which will give 'complete peace of mind'. Thinking the service is endorsed by the Commonwealth Government, the employer signs on the spot.

The second strategy involves operating a number of generic 'Fair Work Information Lines', which employers mistakenly call instead of the official Fair Work Infoline operated by the FWO.

After callers have received some preliminary advice (sometimes given by unqualified and inexperienced 'consultants') they are offered an introduction to an HR service which is recommended by 'Fair Work'.

These practices are scandalous.

When we began hearing from frustrated employers who felt they had been misled, we immediately contacted the FWO. We expected they'd put out a press release or, at the very least, publish a generic message on their web site reminding employers that the FWO does not endorse any private HR business.

But they didn't.

And for the last nine months we have been contacted by countless employers who have signed up to an HR service under the genuine - but completely mistaken - belief that it was recommended or endorsed by the FWO.

These employers are understandably appalled, disappointed and very angry. And so are we.

While we have no doubt the FWO made their concerns known to the company involved and took steps to have them change their ways, there's also no doubt they did absolutely nothing to warn the public about their deceptive and misleading conduct.

As a result of the FWO's public silence, hundreds - perhaps thousands - of employers have signed multi-year contracts with the company in question.

If only the FWO would spend as much time, energy, and tax-payer's money assisting employers as they do prosecuting them. The FWO has, once again, let every law-abiding employer down very badly.

Related articles:

Employsure Complaints

Have you been misled? Make an official complaint to:

ACCC Small Business Helpline

Phone: 1300 302 021

NSW Fair Trading

Call 13 32 20

VIC Consumer Affairs

Call 1300 55 81 81

QLD Fair Trading

Call 13 74 68

SA Consumer and Business Services

Phone: 131 882

Or the relevent fair trading body in your state or territory.