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Fair Work Ombudsman annual performance statement

I, Sandra Parker, as the Entity’s accountable authority, present the 2018–19 annual performance statement, as required under paragraph 39(1)(a) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 (PGPA Act). The statement is based on properly maintained records, accurately reflects the Entity’s performance, and complies with subsection 39(2) of the PGPA Act.

Agency purpose

The FWO is the Australian Government agency responsible for ensuring compliance with workplace relations laws. Our purpose is to promote harmonious, productive, cooperative and compliant workplace relations.


Performance criteria




Further information on results

The FWO manages requests for assistance in a timely manner.

Average number of days requests for assistance involving a workplace dispute are finalised.

30 days

26 days

Activities and recoveries

The FWO provides information and advice that is accessible, timely and reliable.

Availability of website services (time available as a percentage of total time).



Online services

Availability of contact centre services (percentage of availability during advertised hours).



Phone services

The FWO takes a risk-based and proportionate approach to its compliance and enforcement activities.

Requests for assistance involving a workplace dispute finalised through education and dispute resolution services.

At least 90%


Advice, education and dispute resolution assistance

Requests for assistance involving a workplace dispute finalised through compliance and enforcement tools.

No more than 10%


Enforcement outcomes

The FWO has a positive impact on sectors/ regions or issues of importance to the community.

Indicator: Seek to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the reasons for non-compliance with workplace relations laws.

Achieved: The FWO continues to undertake detailed analysis to understand trends in the internal and external environment to ensure operational priorities and activities target problematic sectors and industries.

We finalised our Harvest Trail Inquiry, our longest-running and most in-depth inquiry to date. The inquiry has helped us better understand the prevalence and drivers of non-compliance in the horticulture industry and develop strategies to bring about sustained behaviour change.

The fast food, restaurants and cafes sector continued to be a key focus of our compliance operations. In an effort to understand the reasons for systemic and persistent non-compliance, we consulted with industry leaders, unions and employer associations, and continued to audit businesses to examine the factors influencing the high non-compliance rates. This is allowing us to focus on addressing the main issues that employers have difficulty with when trying to comply with workplace laws.

Intelligence-led activities

Source: FWO and ROC Entity 2018–19 Portfolio Budget Statements: Program 1.1 (page 140) and FWOROCE Corporate Plan 2018-2019.

Note: FWO performance indicators and targets are currently under review and any changes will be reflected in the next Portfolio Budget Statements and FWOROCE Corporate Plan.

Analysis of performance against FWO purpose

In 2018–19, we met all our performance indicators.

The FWO’s progress towards its purpose was achieved in the context of a complex operating environment influenced by changes to business and labour market conditions, community expectations about corporate sector responsibilities and behaviour that include an increasing intolerance for underpayments to workers. Changing business and labour market conditions include that:

  • Staff turnover rates are at a ten-year high of around 18% and higher for young people, with more than half of them leaving their employer each year.1
  • Franchising is a common business model in Australia.2
  • Migration is the largest contributor to employment growth.3
  • The number of temporary visa holders arriving in Australia each year is substantially larger than the permanent migration program.4
  • Technology is driving changes to workplaces and the nature of work. The emergence of the on-demand economy and automation have created new flexibilities in how services are delivered.

A changing workplace environment increases the opportunity for unscrupulous employers to evade detection, particularly where vulnerable workers are employed. Wage exploitation of migrant workers also remains a complex issue as it crosses employment, migration, corporations, taxation and other laws.

We introduced new governance frameworks to steer the implementation of our compliance and enforcement priorities and corporate governance accountabilities. We also continued to enhance the capability of our staff to provide the right level of information and support to our customers and manage risks.

We maintained our measured and risk-based approach to enforcing the Fair Work laws, including in our use of new powers and functions. We also further invested in establishing clear and evidence-based strategies to identify and address systemic non-compliance. This has resulted in significant general deterrence outcomes that have enabled our frontline education and advice activities to complete 96% of workplace disputes.


  1. See Australian HR Institute, Turnover and Retention Research Report, August 2018.
  2. See Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services, Australian Senate, Fairness in Franchising, March 2019, p.11.
  3. See Department of Home Affairs statistics available at https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/research-and-stats/files/migration-trends-highlights-2017–18.PDF
  4. See Australian Government, Report on the Migrant Workers’ Taskforce, https://www.ag.gov.au/industrial-relations/industrial-relations-publications/Documents/mwt_final_report.pdf, p. 11.