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Fair Work Inspectors target health care and social assistance industry

Australia's growing health care and social assistance industry is to be the focus of a new national campaign by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The sector currently employs more than 1.4 million workers, but that figure is predicted to increase to 1.6 million over the next four years.

On average, more than 3000 people a month call the Fair Work Ombudsman Infoline from the health care and social assistance sector.

Over the past four-and-a-half years, the Agency has recovered more than $7 million for 5300 underpaid employees from this industry.

Almost one third of the current health care and social assistance workforce was born overseas, almost 80 per cent are female and nearly half are 45 or older.

The industry also employs more than 22,000 apprentices and trainees and about 10,000 overseas 457 visa-holders, mostly from the UK, India, Ireland and the Philippines.

The Fair Work Ombudsman says the new campaign will focus on allied health, medical services and residential care and has been developed following intelligence and advice from key stakeholders.

They are covered by the Health Professionals and Support Services Award, the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award, the aged Care Award and the Clerks - Private Sector Award.

Workers under these awards include dental assistants and receptionists, medical receptionists, disability support workers, personal care attendants, nursing assistants, kitchen staff and cleaners.

Fair Work inspectors will check up to 600 employers over the coming months to ensure their businesses are paying the correct minimum hourly rates, penalty rates, allowances and loadings and providing appropriate meal breaks.

Compliance with record-keeping and pay-slip obligations will also be monitored.

Key stakeholders assisting with the campaign include United Voice, the Australian Medical Association, Leading Age Services Australia, Optometry Australia, the Health & Community Services Union, the Australian Services Union and Aged & Community Services Australia.

In the past three financial years, the Fair Work Ombudsman has placed seven matters before the courts relating to health care and social assistance.

Further, 43 health care and social assistance employers have received formal Letters of Caution about their workplace practices, putting them on notice that further contraventions may result in enforcement action, while eight have received on-the-spot fines for technical infringements.

Employers risk penalties of up to $54,000 for each breach of the Fair Work Act 2009.

Most businesses - including small businesses - are now covered by the national Fair Work system created by the Fair Work Act 2009.

Fair work Inspectors appointed by the Fair Work Ombudsman have the power to enter a workplace at any time during working hours to inspect records and ensure compliance: Read more about fines and penalties: Fair Work Act 2009

HR Managers, Directors and people responsible for payroll and administration functions also risk personal fines under Section 550 of the Fair Work Act 2009.

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