Spotlight on child care after complaints from workers

EMPLOYERS in the child care sector are about to face renewed scrutiny, as the Fair Work Ombudsman prepares for a national compliance crackdown on the industry this year.

The crackdown comes after the ombudsman's office received nearly 400 complaints from childcare workers in 2012-13, which led to 123 employees receiving about $255,000 in repaid wages.

Ombudsman Natalie James said the focus of the campaign would be to ensure employers had the tools to meet their legal obligations under workplace law.

She said the FWO was writing to 14,000 child care businesses around the country to tell them about the campaign, due to start this October.

It will target about 300 childcare centres nationwide, with detailed audits to be conducted, focussing on wages and record-keeping.

Ms James said about half the complaints made last financial year helped identify underpaid wages, lack of appropriate employee records and lack of pay slips.

Ms James said the child care sector was a major employer in Australia, with about 140,000 employees, 96% of whom were female and about a quarter of them young workers, aged up to 24.

"We are mindful that this is an industry which employs large numbers of young people who can be considered vulnerable in the workplace because they may not be fully aware of their entitlements," she said.

As well as checking that minimum entitlements are being provided to workers, inspectors will also check that businesses are correctly classifying staff, maintaining appropriate records and providing pay slips.

The campaign will target long day care centres but also include audits of pre-schools, out-of-school hours care and occasional care centres.

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