$390,000 recovered in unpaid wages for 163 security guards

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has recovered $389,982 in unpaid wages for 163 security guards following an investigation into 19 security businesses in Queensland.

Businesses in BrisbaneGold CoastTownsvilleMaryboroughGympie and Mackay were investigated between September 2019 and July 2020.

FWO received intelligence that raised concerns that some guards may have been incorrectly engaged as independent contractors rather than employees.

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This intelligence included anonymous tip-offs and job advertisements.

Inspectors interviewed workers, managers and business owners and checked records and pay slips for compliance with the Fair Work Act, Fair Work Regulations and the Security Services Industry Award 2010.

The FWO found that 10 of the audited businesses (53 per cent) were non-compliant.

Of these, nine failed to pay workers correctly and two breached record-keeping and pay slip laws.

The most common breaches of workplace laws related to underpayments of weekend penalty rates and the minimum rate for ordinary hours.

No evidence of sham contracting was identified.

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Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the regulator prioritised allegations of employees being misclassified as independent contractors, and she expected security employers to check their compliance with workplace laws.

“Too often we have found employees being underpaid in the security industry and we will continue to monitor the sector and act to ensure that lawful wages are put in workers’ pockets. The Fair Work Ombudsman is aware that many security guards are visa holders or from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds, which can make them more vulnerable to breaches of their workplace rights. We urge any workers with concerns about their entitlements to contact us.”

Inspectors issued 11 Compliance Notices requiring nine employers to rectify breaches of the law.

This has resulted in the $389,982 in back-payments by eight businesses to 163 affected employees.

One of the Compliance Notice matters remain ongoing.

Recoveries from individual businesses ranged from $357,275 for 136 workers from a north Queensland business to $102 for one worker from a Brisbane business.

These businesses were put on notice that any future breaches may result in higher-level enforcement action.

Inspectors also issued two Infringement Notices resulting in payments of fines totalling $420.

Last year, a separate security business in Coffs Harbour received penalties in court for underpaying employees, while another principal security contractor entered into an Enforceable Undertaking after it admitted it was involved in the underpayments of guards in its supply chain.

The FWO has an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs where visa holders can ask for our help without fear of their visa being cancelled.

Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance.