Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) monitoring the activities of HR Advisers; Manager and Recruiters…


The Fair Work Ombudsman recently addressed the Human Resources Institute and in that speech this stark warning was given, and that was that accessorial liability for workplace breaches is now being extended beyond employers and company directors to those working in human resources, management and recruitment.

The message was clear and that was HR advisers need to tell their clients (including employers) to “stay on the right side of the law”, and in cases where a breach has been found, any action taken against an organisation can extend to the individual. Suffice to say, if the HR Adviser is found to be involved in facilitating the breach, they can be considered to be an accessory.

In 2015-16, the Fair Work Ombudsman sought orders against accessories (i.e. HR Advisers) in 46 of the 50 matters it filed in court, or about 92% of cases. This was up from 36 out of 50 court matters (72%) the previous year.

The matter of underpayments of wages to employees of 7-eleven was raised and section 550 of the Fair Work Act 2009 was considered… this section covers ‘involvement in contravention [is] treated the same way as actual contravention’ It was up to the FWO to prove a person knowingly was a part of any contravention.

The FWO’s view is that having actual knowledge in summary means the [HR Adviser] in effect turned a ‘blind eye’ to the matter… and went further to say that negligence and/or recklessness is not a sufficient response.

So for the HR Adviser, the message is clear… ensure the organisation acts appropriately and operates its business in keeping with legislation; as the result could be detrimental for not only the Company but the HR Adviser as well!