The Fair Work Ombudsman has been criticised for once again entering into a ‘warm and fuzzy’ agreement called an Enforceable Undertaking with a company guilty of wage theft.
This time it involves the operators of the OKS Hair and Beauty Salon based in Lidcombe in Sydney, who stole more than $25,000 from seven workers.
The details of the wage theft
The salon assistants were all underpaid hourly rates and penalty rates for weekend and public holiday work, and some were paid cash-in-hand.
They were also not given pay slips and weren’t paid superannuation.
After being caught out, instead of taking legal action, the Fair Work Ombudsman offered the company the chance to enter into an Enforceable Undertaking.
Under the terms of the agreement, the company has agreed to “overhaul its workplace practices”, and donate $5,000 to a community legal centre, and in return, the Fair Work Ombudsman has agreed not to take them to court.
Enforceable Undertakings ‘a cop out’
The so-called Enforceable Undertakings have previously been criticised by industrial relations advocate Miles Heffernan, from WAGETHEFT.net.au, who has helped hundreds of workers recover stolen wages who were offered no assistance by the Fair Work Ombudsman.
He describes the agreements as a cop out.
“Instead of taking businesses to court for stealing from their employees, the workplace watchdog tells them not to worry about it, they just have to pay back what they owe, and promise not to do it again, and they’re off the hook,” Mr Heffernan said.
Previously the Fair Work Ombudsman entered into an Enforceable Undertaking with foreign currency exchange company UAE Exchange Australia, after it was found to have stolen $1.2 million in wages from its employees.
“If this is how the Fair Work Ombudsman treats a business that steals more than one million dollars in wages from their workers, why wouldn’t employers everywhere commit wage theft – because there are rarely any real consequences,” Mr Heffernan said.
Details of the Enforceable Undertaking
Under the terms of the latest Enforceable Undertaking, Hyung Jin Oh, director of the company that owns OKS Hair and Beauty, has agreed to engage an external auditor to confirm he is paying his staff legally for the next two years.
In addition, the company must send letters of apologies to the underpaid workers, display a notice about the EU in the Salon and on its Facebook page, and staff must undergo workplace relations training.
Mr Oh also agreed to make a $5,000 donation to the Marrickville Legal Centre.
“Considering Mr Oh would have faced penalties of up to $12,600 per contravention, and his company up to $63,000 per contravention had the Ombudsman bothered to take this case to court – he got off pretty lightly with a piddly $5,000 donation to a community legal centre,” Mr Heffernan said.
Ombudsman defends Enforceable Undertakings
Defending the Enforceable Undertaking with Mr Oh, Acting Ombudsman Kristen Hannah said it was an appropriate outcome.
“EUs allow the Fair Work Ombudsman to achieve strong outcomes against companies that breach workplace laws without the need for civil court proceedings, which are often lengthy and can significantly extend the time it takes for workers to receive their entitlements,” she said.
“This will make a real difference to workers.”
The seven workers have been back paid in full.
If you have not received your proper wages and entitlements, or are considering legal action to recover stolen wages, we can help.
Please call our specialist team at WAGETHEFT.net.au on
1300 1 THEFT (1300 184 338)
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