A care and respite facility has been penalised $41,580 for deliberately underpaying two disability support workers $84,450.
The Federal Circuit Court penalised Lovely Care Pty Ltd $36,000 and its director, secretary and shareholder Elizabeth Bonilla $5,580.
Care and respite facility penalised for underpaying migrant workers
The two disability workers affected are a man from Egypt and a woman from China and are recent migrants to Australia.
The employer paid flat rates of $200 to $312 for shifts up to 15 hours.
As a result, they failed to pay minimum hourly rates, casual loadings and a sleepover allowance under the relevant award.
The underpayments totalled $54,115 for one worker, in addition to $30,335 for the second worker.
The Fair Work Ombudsman commenced an investigation as a result of receiving complaints from the employees.
Workers repaid as a result of legal action
Fair Work commenced legal proceeding in 2013 against Lovely Care and Bonilla alleging both breached workplace laws.
However, in November 2015, shortly before a trial commenced, Lovely Care admitted the contraventions and rectified the underpayments with interest.
Despite this, Bonilla denied involvement in the contraventions.
In January 2019, the court found Bonilla did engage in some of the contraventions, including:
- having knowledge of the employees’ casual employment,
- the hours they worked,
- and Lovely Care’s failure to pay the full minimum ordinary time entitlements, casual loadings and other allowances.
Migrant workers vulnerable to exploitation
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from WAGETHEFT.net.au said migrant workers are vulnerable to exploitation.
“Migrant workers sometimes don’t understand their workplace rights, or are afraid they will lose their job or visa by making a complaint,” he said.
“No one deserves to be exploited at work, and as a consequence, employers like Lovely Care deserve harsh penalties for being so greedy and uncaring.”