The Fair Work Ombudsman will audit hundreds of businesses employing apprentices and trainees over the next three months following numerous requests for assistance from apprentices who had reported various irregularities concerning apprenticeship contracts.
According to deputy Fair Work Ombudsman (Operations) Michael Campbell, the Fair Work inspectors will place under scrutiny 700 hundred employers of first-year apprentices in the automotive, electrical services, manufacturing, butchery and bakery trades from every capital city and selected regional areas.
He said 1400 apprentices and trainees – more than half of them aged under 24 – sought help from the Fair Work Ombudsman in the 10 months to the end of May last year.
According to data, almost half of apprenticeship contracts in trades are never completed, with a third of apprentices leaving their employer because of “poor working conditions, low wages or because they were unhappy with on-the-job training”.
“Given that we receive a consistent stream of requests for assistance from apprentices and the high drop-out rates, we believe an education and compliance campaign for employers of apprentices and trainees is warranted,” Mr Campbell said.
“Our objective is to provide advice and assistance to businesses at the earliest point in the employment relationship to ensure we give the apprentice the best chance of successfully completing his or her trade.”
Fair Work inspectors will investigate if employers understand their obligations with respect to record-keeping and payslips and monitor payment of minimum hourly rates, penalty rates, overtime, allowances and loadings.
“Employers will also be educated about appropriate payments for off-the-job training for apprentices, competency-based progression and reimbursement of applicable course fee,” Mr Campbell said.
He said he was hopeful that the pro-active campaign would help improve compliance and drive behavioural change where necessary.
“Where we find problems, we will endeavour to identify the cause. This will help to inform our compliance and education efforts in the future,” he said, adding that employers and employees seeking assistance can visit the website at http://www.fairwork.gov.au/ or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.