Another business has made media headlines over the past few weeks for underpaying an employee. This time it wasn’t in hospitality! The former owner (Mr Taleb) of a Sunshine Fruit Market has been smacked with a $660,000 fine for paying an Afghan refugee $3.50 per hour. This is now the largest fine given by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
The Fair Work Ombudsman stated the former employee was not provided with required meal breaks although at times he worked more than 12 hours per day.
The court findings were:
- The owner ignored minimum pay rates even though this was bought to his attention
- The worker was not paid for weeks at a time
- The worker was not provided meal breaks
The Afghan refugee came to Australia as an Asylum Seeker before being granted residency and spoke very little English. The court ruled that Mr Taleb will be personally liable for back-paying the worker more than $6,500 if his company fails to do so.
The hospitality and retail sectors are not the only ones underpaying employees. Employees working under the Cleaning Services Award are also commonly bring underpaid. A survey of 300 cleaners found that 80% were being paid below award rates. Some employees were paid as little as $2.65 per hour! Other employees never received any annual or personal leave entitlements and they were employed on a full-time basis.
To help stop the exploitation of such workers new legislation was introduced to Parliament that would mean employers must do a lot more to ensure that they comply with workplace legislation and instruments like Awards and the National Employment Standards.
The Fair Work Amendment (Protecting Vulnerable Workers) Bill 2017, proposes that fines be increased from $54,000 to $500,000 for breaches of the Act that are deliberate. It also looks to increase the powers of the Fair Work Ombudsman in the investigation of exploitation of vulnerable workers.
Ignorance is no excuse as far as The Fair Work Ombudsman is concerned and regular breaches of vulnerable workers such as international students, asylum seekers and young workers will be dealt with very harshly.
If you are unsure if you are paying above Award wages you can check on the Fair Work Ombudsman website pay calculator: https://calculate.fairwork.gov.au/findyouraward
Or if you need any assistance in confirming your pay rates are correct, feel free to give us a call at HR Gurus on 1300 959 560.
Written by resident HR Guru Natalie Bol