Role and powers of industrial inspectors

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Industrial inspectors are designated under the Industrial Relations Act 1979 to secure the observance of state employment laws and industrial instruments such as awards. They may do this by a variety of mechanisms including investigating a matter or taking enforcement proceedings in the Industrial Magistrates Court.

Industrial inspectors do not represent employers or employees. They act impartially and fairly to achieve compliance. Industrial inspectors are bound by the Department’s Code of Conduct in the performance of their duties, as well as the Public Sector Commissioner’s Code of Conduct.

The functions and duties of industrial inspectors are set out in section 98(2) of the Industrial Relations Act 1979 and a directive issued by the Minister for Industrial Relations.

Industrial inspector powers

Industrial inspectors have broad powers to ensure that employers are complying with their employment obligations and that employees are receiving their correct pay and entitlements.

Industrial inspectors may enter a workplace, or business premises where records are kept, for the purposes of carrying out their functions. They may also:

  • inspect and view any work, material, machinery or record at a workplace or business premises;
  • require a person at a workplace or business premises to answer questions;
  • require the production of records within a specified timeframe; and
  • post a notice at a workplace containing information such as minimum rates of pay and other employment entitlements.

What happens when an inspector enters premises?

When an industrial inspector enters a workplace or business premises, they will usually:

  • ask to speak to the employer or occupier of the premises; and
  • show their identity card with the inspector’s full name, signature and photo.

An industrial inspector may ask to inspect employment records kept at the premises (including records accessible from a computer), and may take copies of the records and/or seize them. The inspector may also issue a Notice to Produce requiring the production of records by a specified date.

An industrial inspector may speak with anyone they find on the premises, including employees. An inspector may ask employees questions to determine whether they are receiving their correct employment entitlements.

What are employers' obligations to inspectors?

An employer is required to produce employment records requested by an industrial inspector. This requirement also applies to any person who has access to records, such as an employer’s accountant or bookkeeper.

An employer or other person must not obstruct an industrial inspector by wilfully misleading them (which could include withholding relevant information), failing to answer a question truthfully or fabricating employment records.

Power to take enforcement proceedings in the Industrial Magistrates Court

Following an industrial inspector’s investigation into a particular matter, the Department may decide to take enforcement proceedings in the Industrial Magistrates Court. There are a variety of remedies that may be sought, including that an employer:

  • pay a civil penalty for contravening a state employment law or industrial instrument;
  • pay an employee any monetary entitlements owing to them, plus interest;
  • do or refrain from doing a certain thing (for example, an order requiring the employer to provide the industrial inspector with employment records).

In the event that the Department takes successful enforcement proceedings, it will issue a media statement with the case details and publish the statement on the Department’s website. A list of previous media statements can be viewed on the Enforcement matters page.

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