A Victorian massage parlour operator is facing court for allegedly underpaying a Chinese worker more than $13,000 and providing false records to inspectors.
Austop Natural Therapy and Supplies Pty Ltd, which operates ‘Yin’s Chinese Massage’ in Bacchus Marsh, and formerly operated a massage parlour under the same trading name in Ballarat, is facing the Federal Circuit Court along with company director Yusen Yin and company secretary Wenhua Liu.
In addition, the Fair Work Ombudsman is taking action against an accounting firm used by the company, Keith Golding & Associates Pty Ltd, alleging it was involved in creating false records that were provided to investigators.
The details of the underpayments
Instead of paying the worker the correct hourly rate she was entitled to under the relevant award, Austop paid her a percentage of the total price of each massage she performed at its Ballarat business.
This happened between December 2016 and July 2017, and was in breach of the Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010.
The dodgy pay arrangement resulted in the worker being underpaid her legal ordinary hourly rates, overtime rates, weekend and public holiday penalty rates, superannuation and annual leave entitlements.
The company also allegedly failed to ensure she did not work more than six consecutive days.
The alleged breaches were discovered when the worker complained to the Fair Work Ombudsman.
In total the worker was allegedly underpaid $13,522, with some remaining outstanding.
Other alleged breaches
In addition to the underpayments, the Fair Work Ombudsman alleges that Austop Natural Therapy and Supplies failed to issue pay slips to staff in breach of workplace laws, and it is further alleged that the company along with Keith Golding & Associates deliberately provided inspectors with false and misleading records.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman will use accessorial liability laws to hold professional services firms to account if they are involved in breaching workplace laws,” Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said
“Third parties such as accountants should be aware that they can be ordered by a court to pay employees’ unpaid wages and entitlements, as well as penalties, if found to be involved.”
Wage theft should be a criminal offence
Miles Heffernan, Litigation Director at WAGETHEFT.net.au, called for deliberate wage theft to be made a criminal offence.
“It is clear that current financial penalties are not working as a deterrent, so it’s time we started locking up greedy employers who steal from their workers,” he said.
“We lock up people who commit all other forms of theft, so why shouldn’t we lock up people who commit wage theft?
“Until we do, we will continue to see wage theft occur at epidemic levels in many industries, including hospitality, fast food, retail, and the massage industry.”
Keith Golding & Associates faces maximum penalties of up to $21,000 per breach.
Ms Yin and Ms Liu face penalties of up to $12,600 per contravention, while Austop Natural Therapy and Supplies Pty Ltd could be penalised up to $63,000 per contravention.
A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne on 30 April, 2019.
NOTE: The Fair Work Ombudsman makes no allegations against the current operators of Yin’s Chinese Massage in Ballarat.
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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