Almost daily, we read about employer failure to comply with award or enterprise agreement obligations. Opportunistically and in keeping with the sport of “business bashing”, the failure is termed “wage-theft”, as if to brand every failure deliberate and deserving of criminal sanction and as if to assume that compliance is easy.

I’m not here to condone such failures. The law is the law and it should be observed.

And it’s quite possible that in many organisations compliance has been taken for granted relying on payroll systems, often outsourced, to ensure employees are paid that which they are due.

The vast majority of failures will be inadvertent. I say this without the benefit of any data, but relying on anecdote and experience. And I’m speaking here of larger employers, being the end of the market we represent. Much of the business-bashing is from the ill-informed, or the well-informed but politically-motivated.

They might arise because a manager does what’s needed to do a job and her hours aren’t properly recorded. Or because the question of whether overtime is payable together with a shift loading is not understood. Or because employees working as casuals are not casual employees, after all. Indeed there are many opportunities for failure.

The due diligence needed by larger employers to best ensure compliance (and I stress “best ensure”) is no small exercise, demanding an understanding of which obligations exist, what they mean, and how they apply to a myriad of different ways employees might actually work. A root cause analysis for each is a major project. The controls needed to monitor compliance are extensive.

What is apparent, is that larger employers are heeding the need to be better. They are recognising that good governance demands and is demanding of better compliance.

They are reviewing their systems and processes.

They are conducting audits and typically with the help of a third party specialist together with legal support. They are rectifying shortfalls where these are identified.

Indeed there are all the hallmarks of business taking an approach to workplace compliance as they do occupational health and safety – embedded as part of everyday business.

It’s become a Board and C-suite issue, and rightly so.


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