The Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Act 2017 received royal assent on 14 September 2017 and commenced the following day.

From 15 September 2017, employers can face:

  • a penalty of up $630,000 (or $126,000 for an individual) for a ‘serious contravention’ of a civil remedy provision; and
  • a penalty of up to $63,000 (or $12,600 for an individual) for failing to give payslips or keep appropriate records – even if the breach was inadvertent.

And from 27 October 2017, franchisors and holding companies (and their officers) will be liable for a range of different contraventions by their franchisees and subsidiaries in certain circumstances.

There are also a range of other important amendments to the Fair Work Act 2009 which commence today, including that:

  • persons who suffer loss because of a contravention by a franchisee or subsidiary can, in certain circumstances, recover compensation from the franchisor or holding company (who in turn can recover from the contravening franchisee or subsidiary);
  • the Fair Work Ombudsman now has broader powers including the power to seek a ‘FWO notice’ from the AAT (akin to ASIC’s power to issue a notice to require a person to produce documents, give information or attend an interview to answer questions); and
  • employers who fail to keep appropriate records will now face a reverse onus of proof in relation to proceedings for alleged contraventions of the National Employment Standards, modern awards, enterprise agreements and certain other contraventions.

For a summary of these and other key changes, including the impacts on franchisors, please see our earlier article about this legislation. A copy of the amending Act is available here.