“The Fair Work Ombudsman should be congratulated for the proactive approach he has taken through education rather than the harsher alternatives available,” said Michael Davoren, managing director at RE/MAX Australia.
“Real estate agents are under ever increasing compliance pressure from many different levels of government and departments within those jurisdictions,” he told Real Estate Business.
“However there is no excuse these days for avoiding their responsibilities. There is a lot of information available through Real Estate Institutes (REIs), franchisors and government departments. All they have to do is just ask.”
Mr Davoren, the former head of the Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) and Real Estate Institute of Australia (REIA), made his comments in relation to the findings of an investigation into 156 Queensland-based real estate agents by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The probe was to see whether the agents were meeting their obligation to lodge written pay agreements for their staff with the Queensland Property Industry Registry (QPIR). Fair Work inspectors found that 75 employers (48 per cent) had lodged their agreements, but 81 employers (52 per cent) had failed to.
The highest rate of non-compliance was on the Gold Coast, where 20 of the 31 employers audited (65 per cent) had failed to lodge agreements. Thirty-six (55 per cent) of the 65 Brisbane employers audited were non-compliant, while six (29 per cent) of the 21 Sunshine Coast employers audited were non-compliant.
The Fair Work Ombudsman said in all cases, employers agreed to promptly lodge agreements after Fair Work inspectors educated the businesses about their obligations.
The organisation said it is a requirement under the Real Estate Industry Award 2010 for employers to lodge a written agreement with the QPIR for all staff classified as property/strata management or property sales employees.
The agreement must state how the employee will be paid - commission-only, part-commission or as per the rates listed in the Modern Award - and detail steps that will be taken to ensure Award entitlements are not undercut.
Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson says employers who fail to lodge agreements are at greater risk of underpaying their employees.
“We conducted this campaign because we identified that many of the underpayment complaints we receive from real estate industry workers in Queensland were against employers who had not lodged pay agreements with the QPIR,” Mr Wilson said.
Mr Davoren said his organisation would continue to work closely with its franchise owners to minimise their non-compliance issues, particularly in those areas that affect their employees and their customers.
“One of the biggest challenges facing the industry is finding appropriately-qualified and suitable people to work in a variety of roles,” he said.
“It is only fair for all parties that they are treated in accordance with the laws, including the requirement to lodge employment agreements. Employers cannot hope that the employee will be ignorant of their rights and that non-compliance will go undetected. They will pay the price.
“If an agent has any doubt then they should contact the Ombudsman’s office or be prepared to face the consequences.”