The Fair Work Ombudsman, in its capacity to address the exploitation of vulnerable workers, is exploring every avenue available to provide workers with information about their rights and give them opportunities to report their employers’ dirty dealings.
In mid-2016 the FWO launched its online Anonymous Report tool for workers to alert the ombudsman to potential workplace breaches, and already more than 33,000 tip-offs have been lodged through the portal.
Migrant workers, despite being one of the most vulnerable groups of workers in Australia due to they’re usually young and have difficulty with language and cultural barriers, were a lot less likely to contact the FWO.
While part of this problem could be attributed to a general lack of knowledge, a lack of in-language resources was identified as one of the biggest hurdles for migrant workers to receiving help.
Many government agencies, including the FWO, do have resources available in languages other than English, however most agencies don’t have a capacity for people to then talk to or otherwise continue interacting with the agency.
In fact, the FWO believes its new In-language Anonymous Report tool is the first such offering by a federal government agency in Australia.
Using publically-available translation tools from Google and Microsoft, the FWO extended the Anonymous Report tool to include 16 languages other than English through which workers can submit tip-offs.
Evaluations between manual translations and automated translations led to the team preferring Google for some languages and Microsoft for others.
Since launching the new capability in July 2017, 1,600 reports have been received in languages other than English, with Chinese and Korean being the most popular.
The FWO has already launched 75 investigations based on anonymous reports in languages other than English.
However, used in combination with other operations data and research, all of the non-English reports have helped the ombudsman target its compliance activities, allowing the agency to focus on particular precincts, locations, sectors, or types of conduct where there may be systemic problems.
Languages supported by the tool include Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Korean, Hindi, Arabic French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Filipino, Portuguese, Thai and Nepali.