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Fair Work Ombudsman annual performance statement

I, Sandra Parker, as the Entity’s accountable authority, present the 2019–20 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

21 days

Advice, education and dispute resolution services

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

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

Indicator: In 2019-20, the performance indicators for this criteria changed between the publishing of the agency’s Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS) 2019-20 and the publishing of the FWOROCE’s Corporate Plan. Both sets of indicators have been provided below for transparency.

Corporate plan performance Indicators:

The FWO will use a combination of quantitative data and case studies to demonstrate that we:

  • focus our compliance and enforcement efforts proportionate to the seriousness of the matter
  • apply a risk-based approach to our compliance and monitoring activities
  • have streamlined and coordinated compliance and monitoring approaches
  • publish key strategies and act on feedback regarding the effectiveness of our operations.

Achieved: The FWO continued to take a risk-based and proportionate approach to its compliance and enforcement activities, guided by its 2019–20 compliance and enforcement priorities into sectors and cohorts that our intelligence indicates are at high risk of non-compliance.

We revised our compliance and enforcement posture in response to the changing environment in which we operate, and after careful consideration of recommendations from an internal capability review, the Migrant Workers Taskforce Report, and findings of the Banking Royal Commission. This resulted in an increase in the use of most of our enforcement tools, and most notably compliance notices, which saw a threefold increase in use and an almost 8 times increase in monies recovered compared to the 2018-19 financial year.

We secured our first penalty decision using the provisions introduced in the Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017, and initiated litigations in 3 other matters under the ‘serious contravention’ provisions introduced by the Act. We also achieved our highest aggregate penalty judgment to date, securing penalties of almost $900,000 against 3 sushi outlets and their accessories.

We completed 22 investigations into companies who self-reported breaches of the Fair Work Act, and secured back payments of over $90 million for more than 12,000 employees.

We also issued 116 media releases over the year that reported on our compliance and enforcement activities.

PBS performance indicators:




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

At least 90%


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

No more than 10%


Not achieved: FWO revised its approach to its use of compliance and enforcement tools following recommendations from the Migrant Workers Taskforce Report, which advocated for greater use of our compliance and enforcement tools. This revised approach resulted in an increase in the use of most of our enforcement tools in 2019-20. As a result, the agency changed the performance indicators for this criteria in the 2019-20 Corporate plan, so as not to put any limits on the use of our enforcement tools but rather focus on a more general proportionate and risk-based approach.

Performance criteria: 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. Our 2019–20 compliance and enforcement priorities, which guided our activities for the year, were based on extensive research, intelligence and operational data.

We made submissions to the Senate Select Committee on Temporary Migration and the ongoing Senate Inquiry into unlawful underpayment of employees’ remuneration. We continue to monitor inquiry submissions to gain a further understanding of the perspectives and insights from relevant stakeholders, including employer, employee and community organisations.

In response to the significant increase in large corporate self-reported non-compliance received this financial year, we established a Corporate Sector Taskforce, which will focus, among other things, on the type and nature of contraventions in these types of matters.

We hit a milestone with our anonymous reports in 2019–20, surpassing over 60,000 reports received since the tool was launched. We continue to use the intelligence gathered from these reports, in conjunction with other operational data, to inform our targeted compliance activities into high-risk sectors.

We continue to work across government and with relevant stakeholders, including international stakeholders, to leverage best-practice approaches and position ourselves as a leading regulator. This includes:

  • the launch of our International Engagement Strategy, which was developed in consultation with a number of government departments, to develop a coordinated approach to engaging internationally with like-minded regulators and institutions
  • working with our New Zealand counterparts, the Employment Services division of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, to share best practice strategies and insights to promote greater levels of compliance with workplace laws
  • progressing our Horticulture Strategy, including working closely with an external industry reference group and holding ‘Awards in Action’ community forums in key horticulture regions around the country

working across government to administer the JobKeeper scheme, including being a member of the JobKeeper Program Inter-Departmental Committee and its 3 working groups.

Analysis of performance against FWO purpose

In 2019–20, we met all our Corporate Plan performance indicators.

Use of our main service offerings, including our website and Infoline, increased from previous financial years, indicating that the community continues to access our advice, resources and assistance at their convenience. This was particularly relevant when our services were in high demand as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, we:

  • reallocated our staff to effectively manage the increased demand for our services
  • ensured our information and advice was constantly updated as the situation evolved with a dedicated coronavirus website and hotline established
  • developed and launched a number of new pandemic-related resources.

Our 2019–20 compliance and enforcement priorities, coupled with our proportionate and risk-based approach to compliance and enforcement, allowed us to focus our activities into high-risk sectors. This approach ensured we targeted our resources into issues and industries where we would have the most impact.

We worked across government and with relevant stakeholders to enhance our understanding of the reasons for non-compliance with workplace laws. This included making submissions to a number of relevant Senate Inquiries, and working with relevant stakeholders to inform our education and compliance activities.