A construction business has been penalised $33,000 for ripping off a young apprentice.
The Fair Work Ombudsman took legal action after the company ignored a Compliance Notice requiring it to rectify the wage theft.
Construction business penalised
Westbridge Constructions (VIC) Pty Ltd is based in Glenburn a town north-east of Melbourne.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court penalised the company $14,320.
It also ordered Westbridge back-pay the worker $18,858 in outstanding entitlements owed, plus interest and superannuation.
The Compliance Notice
Fair Work started investigating the company as a result of receiving a wage theft complaint from a 19 year-old apprentice carpenter.
An inspector later formed a belief that the worker had been underpaid minimum wages, overtime rates and annual leave entitlements.
They subsequently issued Westbridge with a Compliance Notice in October 2020 requiring the company to calculate and back-pay any outstanding wages and entitlements.
It then failed to do so.
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Judge Catherine Symons found that as an apprentice, the affected worker belonged to a vulnerable class of worker.
She also described the amount owed to the worker as “significant”.
Moreover, Judge Symons said there is a need to impose a penalty that will deter other employers from ignoring Compliance Notices.
“The compliance notice regime was introduced as a means to quickly and inexpensively resolve underpayment claims.
“Had the respondent complied with the compliance notice within the time frame specified, they would have avoided this litigation.”
Apprentices vulnerable to exploitation
Meanwhile, industrial advocate Miles Heffernan said young apprentices are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
“Many young workers do not know their workplace rights, or they are afraid to speak up and complain, for fear of losing their job,” he said.
“They are therefore ripe pickings for dodgy employers who want to rip them off.”
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