A Queensland fencing company has been penalised $14,000 for ignoring an order to back-pay a worker almost $9,000.
Industrial advocates say employers who ignore orders from the regulator to rectify wage theft will incur unnecessary financial penalties.
Queensland fencing company penalised
The Federal Circuit and Family Court imposed a $12,000 penalty against Drillchan Pty Ltd.
The company operates a fence construction business in Goondiwindi, in southern Queensland.
The court also imposed a $2,200 penalty against its sole director, Stephen John Warburton.
The Fair Work Ombudsman commenced an investigation into the company as a result of receiving a wage theft compliant from the worker.
The man is a Dutch national in Australia on a working holiday visa.
Warburton employed him as a casual construction worker between April and July 2020.
The wage theft
Following a brief investigation, a Fair Work inspector formed the belief that Warburton paid the worker an illegal flat hourly rate.
He failed to pay the minimum casual wage, casual loading, overtime rates, and weekend and public holiday penalty rates as a result.
The inspector subsequently issued Warburton with a Compliance Notice, requiring him to calculate and back-pay the underpayments.
He failed to do so, however.
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Compliance Notices not optional
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan said Compliance Notices are not optional.
“These Notices offer employers a chance to rectify wage theft without incurring a financial penalty,” he said.
“Those who choose to ignore them are silly, because not only will they be required to back-pay what they owe, a court will also impose penalties.”
Mr Heffernan said overseas workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.
“Often migrant workers do not understand their rights, or they might have language barriers, or they may fear losing their visa,” he said.
“That’s a perfect storm for exploitation.”
In addition to the penalties, the court also ordered Warburton and Drillchan to back-pay the worker the outstanding $8998 in full, plus superannuation.
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