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Overworked and underpaid?

7 March 2019

Are you being paid or are you paying the correct wage?

The Fair Work Act 2009 (“the Act”) imposes obligations on employers about the payment of minimum wages.

The Fair Work Ombudsman (“Ombudsman”) is an independent statutory office given jurisdiction under the Act. According to the Fair Work website https://www.fairwork.gov.au its role is to:

“promote harmonious, productive and co-operative workplace relations and to monitor, inquire into, investigate and enforce compliance with relevant Commonwealth laws”.

A look at the media release page on the Fair Work website illustrates how active the Ombudsman has been in the area of underpayment of wages recently:

  1. A Sydney hair salon must pay $77,000 in penalties for underpaying a teenage apprentice in their first job;
  2. Commencement of legal action against the operators of takeaway outlets for allegedly underpaying 94 workers approximately $694,000;
  3. A Melbourne Café owner and its director must pay over $250,000 in penalties for underpaying 54 workers;
  4. A Melbourne convenience store and restaurant must pay $335,000 in penalties for underpaying international student workers;
  5. A former director of a catering company was penalised $50,000 for their role in underpaying workers at a Wagga Club.

In many of the completed cases, in addition to the substantial monetary penalty, the employer also had to make back-payments to the worker for the unpaid monies.

The takeaway point from these examples is that the Ombudsman is sending a clear warning to employers who fail to meet their legal obligations that they do so at their peril.

In particular many of the examples deal with the exploitation of vulnerable workers especially young workers and overseas workers and the Ombudsman has stated that employers doing this will face harsh scrutiny.

The Fair Work website https://calculate.fairwork.gov.au/ contains the Pay and Conditions Tool which is designed to calculate the correct pay and leave entitlements for workers. This can be accessed by both employers and employees.

This article is general information only and should not be relied on without obtaining further specific information.

John English Business Lawyer / Director

John English is a Business Lawyer with expertise in the areas of business law, agribusiness and property. John is experienced in estate planning, .. Learn more about John English

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