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Are you a business owner who knows a competitor is unfairly keeping costs down by underpaying its employees? Do you know someone, perhaps yourself, whose wages are less than they are legally entitled to receive?

If your answer to either of those questions is “Yes”, the office of Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) wants you to jump onto their new anonymous online report form and tell them what you know.

Anyone can report illegal workplace practices

The FWO wants any member of the public to use the report form. It is a breakthrough for anyone who knows an employer isn’t complying with the law but wants to avoid getting personally involved.

Here is some of what the Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, said when she launched the service:

“Compliance with workplace laws isn’t just my business, it’s everyone’s business – when workers get ripped off, everyone is affected.

If you suspect a business is exploiting its workers, or if something doesn’t seem right, we want you to tell us – we want to know.”

If you would like to read more about how serious the FWO is about this, see the full text of Ms James' statement

Why you should report what you know

If you think your industry has a problem with illegal workplace practices, do something about it. Use the form and tell your colleagues and business associates to use it too. Encourage them to submit reports and provide facts the FWO can act upon.

The more information the FWO has about a non-compliant employer the better.

This is how Ms James described what will happen:

“The information will be collated and analysed by our Intelligence Team, which will report on trends and generate leads for our compliance areas to follow up.”

There is no limit on how often you can use the form. If you know about multiple employers who are doing the wrong thing, you should report all of them.

How to use the form

You may use the anonymous online reporting form to share what you know about a wide range of employment-related concerns including pay, leave, unfair dismissal, tax and superannuation, bullying and harassment, workers compensation, industrial action and sham contracting.

It will pay to do some preparation before you start. The form requires you to type in the offender’s correct trading name and address, so make sure you have them at your fingertips. There are some other mandatory details such as the type of problem you want to report and the industry category. For these, the form gives you drop-down lists that are easy to use.

Next, if you wish, you have the option of entering the ABN, state, postcode, telephone number, email address and the name of the owner of manager. The ABN field in the form has a link to an ABN lookup tool to help you provide accurate information.

In addition, there are some optional questions about the circumstances of the employee who is being ‘ripped off’. This section has more drop-down lists and some checkboxes.

When it comes to providing details about the matter you want to report, the form allows you a generous 4000 characters. This is equivalent to about 300–500 words, which means the FWO is giving you a great opportunity to provide the ammunition they need.

Finally, to reinforce the anonymity of the form, you must click on a checkbox to confirm you know the FWO will not contact you.