Explosive allegations: Responding to complaints lodged with FWO

by HCA09 Oct 2012

Explosive allegations of systematic underpayment of wages and leave-loading, exploitation of migrant workers and rampant bullying have undoubtedly put a dent in productivity at a gourmet food manufacturer in Melbourne this week.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) yesterday released a statement confirming it had referred an investigation into Glendal Foods to its serious non-compliance team for immediate attention. Former and current staff at the food manufacturer, which counts Ikea, Qantas and Costco among its customers, have spoken to media about alleged extreme bullying in their workplace, and the organisation has suffered immense brand damage as a result of the allegations.

A representative from Glendal Foods told The Age it would be undertaking “an independent, external investigation” as well as disciplinary action as necessary, yet the manufacturer will also be beholden to the findings of the workplace ombudsman.

It is the role of the Fair Work Ombudsman, the Federal Government’s workplace investigator, to act at the point-of-reference for employees and employers alike, in matters related to workplace rights and responsibilities and to follow up complaints and queries.

Someone’s lodged a complaint with FWO – what now?

Following the lodgement of a complaint, according to FWO the first step for HR or an employer to take is to talk to the employee with a view to resolving the matter as quickly as possible.

  1. Talk to the employee

If the employee is still working for you, it’s important to try and maintain the relationship so that you can keep working together. If you can, talk to your employee about their concerns. Make sure you listen to them and answer their questions if you can.

It might help to find information about their entitlements by visiting the FWO website, making a call or visiting the office.

  1. Check your obligations
  • If you find that there’s been an error ensure it is rectified straight away.
  • If you’re sure your organisation has been fully compliant, inform the FWO representative who’s looking after the complaint and advise them why.
  • If your organisation is a member of an employer organisation, give them a call for information and advice.
  1. Mediation and voluntary resolution

The FWO often recommends mediation as a quick and informal way to reach a suitable resolution. This usually takes place over the phone.

  1. If FWO conducts an investigation:
  • Seek advice from a workplace relations professional if in doubt about your organisation’s rights
  • If your organisation is a member of an employer or industry association, they will be able to provide advice. See FWO’s registered organisations page for a list of unions and employer organisations
  • Work with the investigators cooperatively and constructively – a decision won’t be reached about the complaint until all the evidence is compiled and reviewed
  • If a Notice to Produce  is issued (a legal document requiring you to provide certain documents and / or records by a specific date), make sure your organisation complies
  • If you find there is an issue, fix it quickly. You don’t need to wait for FWO to make a decision about the rest of the complaint (eg. if the complaint is about underpayment of wages and overtime rates and you find that you didn’t pay the right overtime rates, fix it. You don’t need to wait until FWO makes a decision about whether or not there was an underpayment of wages)
  • If you don’t agree with the finding, inform FWO why not and provide any supporting documents.

Click here for more information on enforceable undertakings and legal action.


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