A construction company has been penalised $170,000 for underpaying two apprentices.
The Federal Circuit Court ordered Brendan Angus to pay penalties of $29,529 for the wage theft.
Additionally, the court ordered his company, G.Q. Industries Pty Ltd, to pay $147,645 for breaching the Fair Work Act.
Construction company penalised for ripping off apprentices
The full-time apprentices, aged between 17 and 20, worked at Brisbane construction sites between September 2013 and June 2015.
They usually worked six days a week including overtime as apprentice carpenters.
The court found G.Q. Industries failed to pay a range of minimum entitlements.
- base rates for some ordinary hours,
- Saturday penalty rates,
- overtime rates,
- public holiday pay,
- annual and personal leave entitlements,
- safety net contractual entitlements
- in addition to travel entitlements.
As a result, the underpayments totalled $32,347.
Furthermore, Angus and his company took adverse action against one of the apprentices for taking two days sick leave.
For example, they refused to provide him work or pay for 11 weeks, despite the fact he provided a doctor’s certificate.
Additionally, the apprentice’s training contract required him to be provided with 38 hours’ work per week.
Additionally, the court found breaches to laws relating to frequency-of-pay, record-keeping and pay slips.
Furthermore, the company failed to provide any pay slips to one of the apprentices for 16 months.
Consequently, Judge Gregory Egan described the contravening conduct as “deliberate”.
“The contraventions are serious… committed against young and vulnerable employees.
“The penalties imposed reflect the need for employers, and the persons controlling the employers, to recognise that the provisions of the [Fair Work Act] relating to the payment of employees must be obeyed.”
Young workers vulnerable to exploitation
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan says young workers are vulnerable to exploitation.
“Young workers starting their careers can find it hard to speak up about exploitation,” he said.
“Additionally, many young people are not aware of their workplace rights.”
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Penalties send message to employers
Meanwhile, Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker says the penalties send a clear message that exploitation of apprentices is unacceptable.
“It is unlawful for employers to take adverse action against a worker for exercising their workplace rights, such as taking sick leave, and we will consider enforcement action whenever this is found.”
As a result of the court action, the company back-paid the two apprentices.
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