The operator of the Uniting aged care homes is back-paying employees more than $3.3 million and has entered into an Enforceable Undertaking (DOCX 1.4MB) (PDF 7.9MB) with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The Uniting Church in Australia Property Trust (NSW), a registered charity which runs more than 70 residential aged care facilities as well as other community services under the Uniting brand in NSW and the ACT, self-reported that it underpaid more than 9000 employees.

Uniting identified the underpayments when it conducted a review after receiving complaints from a number of its employees.

Many of the affected employees worked as front line carers and as community and disability services workers. They were covered by a number of different Enterprise Agreements.

The underpayments occurred as a result of errors made by Uniting in providing laundry, uniform and vehicle allowances as well as failing to provide shift workers an extra week of annual leave they were entitled to each year.

Uniting is back-paying 9561 workers a total of $3.36 million, which includes interest, for underpayments that occurred between 2013 and 2019. Individual underpayments range from less than $1 to more than $11,000.

While Uniting has already back-paid the majority of workers, the Enforceable Undertaking requires the organisation to pay any outstanding amounts to former employees by 15 August 2020, as well as a range of other obligations to ensure future compliance.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that an Enforceable Undertaking was appropriate as the organisation had cooperated with the investigation.

“Uniting demonstrated a strong commitment to rectifying all underpayments owed to its workers. The Enforceable Undertaking commits the aged care operator to stringent measures to protect its employees. This includes engaging, at its own cost, an expert auditing firm to conduct an independent assessment of the outcomes of its rectification program and to audit its compliance with workplace laws over the next two years,” Ms Parker said.

“This matter serves as a warning to all organisations that if you don’t prioritise workplace compliance, you risk underpaying staff on a large scale and face not only a massive administrative exercise calculating underpayments but the cost of a significant back-payment bill. Any employers who need help meeting their lawful workplace obligations should contact us.”

Under the Enforceable Undertaking, Uniting must also fund an independent organisation to operate a Hotline for the next four months that employees can use to make enquiries in relation to their entitlements, underpayments or related employment concerns.

Uniting is also required to display public, workplace and online notices detailing its workplace law breaches and apologise to workers.

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The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured $86,000 in penalties in the Federal Circuit Court against the operators of two food outlets in northern Queensland for deliberately underpaying 18 workers, including teenagers.

The Court imposed a $70,000 penalty against Mashnicisa Pty Ltd, which operated the Buenavista Kuranda café at Kuranda, north-west of Cairns, and the ‘Donut Joint’ outlet in the Cairns suburb of Smithfield.

The Court also imposed a $16,000 penalty against company owner Maurice Arias. In addition, the Court has ordered Mashnicisa Pty Ltd and Mr Arias to back-pay the employees, plus interest.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker announced this week that improving workplace compliance in the fast food, restaurant and cafe sector continues to be a priority in the year ahead.

“Employers are on notice that they must pay all employees according to Australia’s lawful minimum pay rates and we will continue to take action to protect young workers, who can be particularly vulnerable if they are not aware of their workplace rights,” Ms Parker said.

“We will enforce the law in a proportionate matter during the COVID-19 pandemic but will not hesitate to take action in response to deliberate and egregious non-compliance, particularly where vulnerable workers are involved.”

Fair Work Inspectors investigated after receiving requests for assistance and found that 18 employees, including 11 juniors aged between 15 and 18 years old, were underpaid a total of $13,913.63 over a period of about three months in 2018. Individual underpayments range from $37.09 to $6034.26.

One worker was paid nothing for approximately four weeks’ work, while others were generally paid rates that were not sufficient to cover the weekend and public holiday penalty rates, overtime rates and evening loadings they were entitled to under the Fast Food Industry Award 2010.

One of the workers gave evidence that the underpayment left him unable to purchase university textbooks and a laptop for studying, while another gave evidence that she fell behind on her bills, including her credit card and loan payments, rent and household bills.

Mr Arias and Mashnicisa Pty Ltd also breached laws by failing to comply with a Notice to Produce issued by the FWO and by providing the FWO with false or misleading payroll documents. They also failed to provide new employees with a Fair Work Information Statement and breached record-keeping laws.

Judge Michael Jarrett found that the underpayments were deliberate, the use of false records demonstrated a “dishonest intention” on Mr Arias’s part and said he was not satisfied Mr Arias and his company had indicated an acceptance of wrongdoing or made a suitable credible expression of regret.

Judge Jarrett said there was a need to impose a penalty to deter others from similar conduct.

“It is important to send a message to other employers working within the fast food industry that non-compliance with the minimum standards, including the payment of overtime and penalty rates to junior staff, will not be tolerated,” Judge Jarrett said.

The Court also ordered Mr Arias and his company to commission independent audits of their compliance with the Fair Work Act 2009 and Fast Food Industry Award 2010 and provide the results to the FWO; display a workplace notice detailing employee workplace rights; and register with the

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The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research is back-paying employees more than $350,000 after entering into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

The not-for-profit organisation, which conducts biomedical research and offers postgraduate training, self-reported last year that it had underpaid current and former employees.

The underpayments are the result of the organisation failing to correctly transition to modern awards.  The institute continued to pay the affected employees according to pre-modern awards which it believed applied, when it should have been paying them according to modern awards, which contained more generous provisions for a number of pay rates and entitlements.

This resulted in underpayments of employees’ minimum shift engagements, meal allowances, first aid allowance, and penalty rates for overtime, weekend and public holiday work. Affected employees include research and animal assistants and technicians, facilities/maintenance employees and students undertaking casual research, data entry, events and office work.

In total, the organisation underpaid 423 current and former employees a total of $350,322 between January 2014 and October 2019. Individual underpayments range from $3 to $ 21267.

The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research has located and back-paid the majority of employees. It has also paid superannuation and interest on back-payment amounts.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that an Enforceable Undertaking was appropriate, as the organisation demonstrated a strong commitment to rectifying all underpayments promptly.

“The Enforceable Undertaking commits the organisation to stringent measures to improve workplace compliance, including funding external audits over the next two years,” Ms Parker said.

“This matter should serve as a warning to all organisations that if you don’t prioritise workplace compliance, you risk underpaying staff on a large scale and face not only a massive administrative and logistical exercise but the cost of a significant back-payment bill.”

Ms Parker said that Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research’s cooperation with the investigation, and the significant impact of COVID-19 pandemic on its revenue, were factors considered in determining that it should not be required to make a contrition payment.

Under the Enforceable Undertaking, the Institute must operate a hotline for the next six months that employees can use to make enquiries in relation to their entitlements, underpayments or related employment concerns.

The organisation is also required to display public, workplace and online notices detailing its workplace law breaches.

For any affected employees who cannot be located, the organisation will pay outstanding amounts to the Fair Work Ombudsman to be held in trust until the employees can be found.

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Introduction

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a $22,440 penalty against the former owner-operator of a labour-hire company following the underpayment of 80 workers on a Queensland mushroom farm.

The Federal Court

The Federal Court has imposed the penalty against Ms Tao Hu, who operated labour-hire company HRS Country Pty Ltd before it went into liquidation in 2016.

Ms Hu admitted that she was involved in underpaying 80 employees a total of $78,664 over an eight-month period in 2014 at a mushroom farm, at Stapylton, south of Brisbane.

The Court ordered that Ms Hu’s penalty be distributed by the Fair Work Ombudsman to the employees to partially rectify the underpayments, which remain outstanding.

The workers were employed by Ms Hu’s labour-hire company, which was contracted to supply labour to the farm.

Some of the underpaid employees were migrant workers, including visa holders. The underpaid employees were paid a flat hourly rate of $16.37.

Flat rate was insufficient to meet the minimum hourly rate

The flat rate was insufficient to meet the minimum hourly rate, casual loading and public holiday rates the employees were entitled to under the Horticulture Award 2010.

The employees were also not provided with paid rest breaks they were entitled to under the Award and a pay-slip law was contravened.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said taking action to improve compliance levels in the horticulture industry remained a priority for the regulator.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman discovered these underpayments during the Harvest Trail Inquiry which was aimed at improving compliance with workplace laws across the horticulture industry.”

“The horticulture sector employs a significant number of vulnerable workers and it is important that we take actions to ensure that they are receiving their full lawful wages and entitlements.”

“We continue to monitor employers along the harvest trail and any workers with concerns should contact us,” Ms Parker said.

The employer has some “wins”

In 2018, in relation to workers paid on piecework rates, the Court dismissed the Fair Work Ombudsman’s separate allegations that farm operator Marland Mushrooms Qld Pty Ltd and the company’s owner-director Mr Troy Marland were involved as accessories in the underpayment of pieceworkers.

The Court also rejected some submissions made by the Fair Work Ombudsman in relation to the operation and application of piecework agreements under clause 15.2 of the Horticulture Award 2010.

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Announcement

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker has announced the regulator’s strategic priorities for the year ahead, which include supporting all workplaces through the COVID-19 pandemic and addressing large corporate underpayments.

Are you a target?

Fast food, restaurants and cafes, horticulture and the harvest trail, franchisors, and sham contracting will continue to be a focus of the regulator’s compliance and enforcement activities.

“Our compliance and enforcement work will be informed by the dramatically changed economic conditions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the temporary amendments to the Fair Work Act,” Ms Parker said.

Impact of COVID-19

Ms Parker said that regulating Australian workplaces significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic requires a degree of flexibility in its approach.

“Some of our priority sectors have been seriously impacted by the pandemic and are under considerable financial strain. We are mindful that our regulatory efforts do not negatively affect already struggling industries, while also being sensitive to the nuances of each sector and the challenges each will face when recovering from disruption,” Ms Parker said.

Ms Parker said the FWO will enforce workplace laws in a proportionate manner during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Compliance and Enforcement Policy has been updated to reflect this.

“Due to the impact of COVID-19 on Australian workplaces, the number of employers and employees seeking our assistance has grown significantly. In response, we have adjusted our services and prioritised allegations of serious non-compliance with workplace laws, including in relation to the JobKeeper scheme,” Ms Parker said.

“A business’ financial position and viability will be considered when deciding whether to commence litigation for serious non-compliance, or determining the size of any contrition payment included in any Enforceable Undertaking,” Ms Parker said.

Underpayments

Underpayments of staff in the corporate sector have become a significant issue of public concern and will continue to be a priority for the Fair Work Ombudsman in 2020-21.

“More than 60 businesses have come forward to self-disclose workplace law breaches with a total of half a billion dollars owed to workers – and that’s just what we know about,” Ms Parker said.

“Earlier this year I wrote to the CEOs and Boards of the top listed companies across Australia, calling for immediate action to assure themselves, their shareholders, workers and the community that their companies are meeting lawful obligations under the Fair Work Act.”

“Large organisations need to place a much higher priority on rigorously reviewing workplace relations systems to ensure that paying workers what they are entitled to becomes the norm.”

The policy has also been updated to reflect the FWO’s approach to self-reported non-compliance, including the circumstances that require self-disclosure and information that should be provided.

“Companies will benefit from early engagement and co-operation with the Fair Work Ombudsman, and we will take account of their financial circumstances in considering our response,” Ms Parker said.

Here to help

Ms Parker said the agency will provide education, advice, tools and resources to small business and those hardest hit by COVID-19. The regulator will also uphold the integrity of the JobKeeper scheme through appropriate compliance activities that resolve matters quickly and efficiently.

Information about Australian workplace law and Coronavirus is available at https://coronavirus.fairwork.gov.au.

FWO’s 2020-21 Compliance and Enforcement Priorities are available at https://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/our-purpose/our-priorities.

FWO’s Compliance and Enforcement Policy is available at https://www.fairwork.gov.au/about-us/our-policies.

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Introduction

The Federal Court has imposed record penalties of $891,000 against the operators of three Hero Sushi takeaway outlets for underpaying workers and providing false records to the FWO.

HSCC Pty Ltd and HSCK Pty Ltd, have each been penalised $225,000 and HSPF Pty Ltd, has been penalised $150,000.

In addition, company directors and owners Deuk Hee “William” Lee and Hokun “Robert” Hwang have each been penalised $85,000, and payroll officers employed at Hero Sushi head office, Chang Seok “Tommy” Lee, Ji Won “Brian” Cho and Jung Sun “Jimmy” Kim, have been penalised $75,000, $16,000 and $30,000, respectively.

Court findings

The Court found that 94 workers across the three Hero Sushi outlets were paid flat rates as low as $12 an hour, resulting in underpayments of $700,832.88 between April 2015 and July 2016. Many of the workers were young overseas workers, including Korean and Japanese nationals on international student and working holiday visas.

The operators also provided Fair Work Inspectors with hundreds of pages of false records across 11 separate occasions, showing inaccurate hours of work and pay rates.

The court found that each of the individuals aided and abetted or were knowingly concerned in some of the company’s breaches of workplace laws.

Comments from the FWO

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker welcomed the record penalties from the court.

“The penalties imposed against Hero Sushi are the largest ever achieved as a result of a Fair Work Ombudsman litigation and demonstrate that employers who deliberately exploit vulnerable workers will face serious consequences,” Ms Parker said. “Employers need to be aware that penalties for serious falsification of records have been increased since the conduct occurred in this case and any employer engaging in this sort of conduct today can face even higher penalties and sanctions in Court,” Ms Parker said.

“This matter should serve as a warning for all businesses that underpay migrant workers, who may be particularly vulnerable if they have language barriers or be reluctant to seek help due to their visa status. Any workers with concerns about their pay should contact us.”

Discovery made by Fair Work Inspectors

Fair Work Inspectors discovered the underpayments when auditing the Hero Sushi outlets at Kotara in Newcastle and Pacific Fair on the Gold Coast, and the Hero Sushi kiosk at the Canberra Centre during a proactive activity targeting sushi businesses in 2016.

The operators underpaid employees’ minimum hourly rates, casual loadings, penalty rates, overtime, clothing allowances and annual leave entitlements under the Fast Food Industry Award 2010. Superannuation was also underpaid and pay slip laws were breached. In total:

  • 30 employees were underpaid $215,066.45 at the Newcastle outlet
  • 43 employees were underpaid $293,451.26 at the Canberra outlet
  • 21 employees were underpaid $192,315.17 at the Gold Coast outlet.

HSCC Pty Ltd, HSCK Pty Ltd and HSPF Pty Ltd have back-paid all underpaid employees they have been able to locate and paid back-payment amounts for other employees to the Fair Work Ombudsman, which will hold the money in trust for the workers until it can locate them. Many employees are yet to be located, including a number who have left Australia.

The judge’s comments

In his judgment, Justice Geoffrey Flick said, “This is a case about greed and the exploitation of the vulnerable.

“Those in a position to ruthlessly take advantage of others pursued their goal of seeking to achieve greater profits at the expense of employees. In doing so, a great number of false documents were deliberately and repeatedly created with a view to concealing the fraud being perpetrated. Lies were told to cover up the wrongdoing. It was only when the “game was up” that those responsible admitted their misdeeds.”

Judge Flick said that:

“the quantum of the penalties to be imposed has to be such that they are not seen as simply the “cost of doing business” in the fast food industry.”

In addition to the penalties, Justice Flick also ordered the companies to display workplace notices detailing employee rights and entitlements and to commission an external audit of its compliance with workplace laws within 28 days and report the results to the Fair Work Ombudsman.

 

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Introduction

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured $264,690 in penalties against a former Sydney entrepreneur, his wife and three companies he operated in response to employees being underpaid more than $1 million.

The Federal Circuit Court has today imposed $62,730 in penalties against Kia Silverbrook and additional penalties against three companies he operated.

IT company Mpowa Pty Limited has been penalised $96,900, solar cell research company Superlattice Solar Pty Ltd has been penalised $40,800 and Priority Matters Pty Ltd, which processed patent applications, has been penalised $51,000.

Janette Lee, who was a director of a company formerly operated by Mr Silverbrook, has also been penalised $13,260 for her role in some of the contraventions.

Backpay plus interest

During the course of the legal actions, commenced in 2013 and 2014, the Fair Work Ombudsman secured $1.15 million (plus interest) in Court-ordered back-payments, which have been made by Mpowa, Superlattice Solar and Priority Matters to 33 underpaid employees.

Penalties and back-pay orders could not be obtained against two other companies formerly operated by Mr Silverbrook, Geneasys Pty Ltd and Silverbrook Research Pty Ltd, – in response to more than $550,000 in underpayments of a further 10 employees – because the companies have been placed into liquidation.

The Fair Work Ombudsman investigation

The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated after receiving underpayment allegations from employees.

The underpayments were primarily the result of employees not being paid wages for periods of up to 10 months in 2013. Individual employee underpayments ranged from $436 to $214,483.

Comments from the FWO

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker welcomed the court’s penalties.

“Being paid for work performed is a fundamental workplace right and it is completely unlawful for employers not to pay their employees,” Ms Parker said.

“The Court’s penalty should warn all employers that they can face serious financial consequences for breaking workplace laws. Any employees with concerns about their wages should contact us.”

Underpaid employees included engineers, scientists, patent attorneys, patent assistants, patent design assistants, IT professionals and clerical workers.

Court findings

The Court found that Mr Silverbrook and the companies told staff it did not have sufficient funds to pay wages but encouraged them to continue working without pay for many months by repeatedly assuring them funding would be secured and pay would be shortly forthcoming.

Significant financial problems, stress and anxiety

Employees gave evidence that the non-payment of wages caused them significant financial problems, stress and anxiety.

Employees described the impacts on them of being exploited, including having to delay important life decisions such as starting a family, deferring health procedures and inability to sleep.

The judge sends a message

Judge Rolf Driver said:

“A clear message needs to be sent to the public that employees’ entitlements are not negotiable regardless of insolvency or nearing insolvency of the company.”

“It is important to set a meaningful penalty which will deter other employers who find themselves in difficult financial circumstances from requiring employees to continue to attend work and perform work in the hope of improving the employer’s financial position so that funds will become available to pay the employees,”

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Introduction

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has backpaid over $11.9 million to more than 1,800 current and former casual staff and entered into an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

An investigation was launched after the ABC reported to the FWO that it had found instances where casual employees had not received entitlements under its enterprise agreements.

Fair Work Inspectors

Fair Work Inspectors identified that some casual staff were receiving flat rates of pay insufficient to cover entitlements including overtime, penalty rates and some allowances, and in some cases, employees were paid less than the minimum hourly rate.

In total, 1,907 ABC employees were underpaid $12,029,038, most between October 2012 and February 2019. As at 27 May 2020, the ABC has back paid $11,983,950 to 1828 employees. The broadcaster has paid affected workers 5.25 per cent interest on back-payments, superannuation, and 5.25 per cent interest on superannuation.

Comments by the FWO

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that an EU was considered appropriate after the ABC took immediate steps to rectify the error and improve its systems to ensure future compliance.

“Enforceable Undertakings are provided for under the Fair Work Act and can be utilised for employers who self-disclose non-deliberate, though still serious, breaches to the Fair Work Ombudsman. We expect employers who self-disclose non-compliance to fully cooperate with our investigations, fast track all back-payments and take remediation action,” Ms Parker said.

Enforceable Undertakings are enforceable by a court

The terms of the EU are enforceable by a court.

“Under the Enforceable Undertaking, the ABC has committed to improving workplace practices across its whole workforce and will invest significantly in improved systems and processes, which will benefit its current and future employees,” Ms Parker said.

“The ABC will also engage and pay for an independent expert, approved by the FWO, to conduct annual audits of its workplace compliance for the next three years. In addition, the ABC must implement an electronic record-keeping and rostering system, and train payroll and HR staff.”

Seriousness of the contraventions

In recognition of the seriousness of its contraventions, the ABC will also make a contrition payment of $600,000. This payment is consistent with FWO’s approach to other similar self-reported breaches of the Fair Work Act and takes account of what a court might have imposed by way of civil penalties.

The contrition payment, like a penalty ordered by a court, will be paid into the Commonwealth’s Consolidated Revenue Fund for the benefit of the broader Australian community.

“While the extent and duration of the underpayments are disappointing, the FWO acknowledges the ABC’s remediation efforts, such as its comprehensive back payment initiatives and its commitment to avoid a repeat of this failure,” Ms Parker said.

“In cases such as this where the breaches are not the result of deliberately unlawful conduct, the FWO’s focus is on ensuring employees get their entitlements paid to them as quickly as possible. Through the investigation and Enforceable Undertaking, lessons are learned and systems put in place to avoid such serious underpayments in the future.”

“When taken as a whole, these kinds of Enforceable Undertakings strike the right balance between ensuring repayment to employees and encouraging employers to come forward and take appropriate remediation action,” Ms Parker said.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman saw no justification in treating a public statutory company differently from any private sector company – all employers must comply with Australia’s workplace laws.”

“Contrition payments provide a deterrent to non-compliance, which is commensurate with a penalty that a court might impose, but without the cost and delay of drawn out litigations,” Ms Parker said.

Affected ABC staff

Affected ABC staff worked across the country in roles including camera operators, make-up artists, graphic designers, production managers, directors, producers, reporters and presenters.

Underpayments ranged from $7 to $180,000, with full remediation to occur by 31 July 2020. The broadcaster will also calculate and back-pay entitlements owed to a small number of breakfast shift producers due to time sheet errors, and some misclassified technology staff.

Annual audits

In addition to the annual audits, the ABC must engage and pay for an external expert to complete a broader review of its workplace compliance and will implement the expert’s recommendations. It will also place notices on its intranet, corporate website, LinkedIn and Twitter channels.

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Introduction

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured penalties of $209,000 against a Melbourne restaurateur, his two companies and his in-house accountant for underpaying workers.

Action

The employees, mostly overseas workers on working holiday and student visas, were underpaid at Tina’s Noodle Kitchen in Box Hill and Dainty Sichuan, on Swanston Street in the Melbourne CBD.

The Federal Circuit Court ordered the owner to pay penalties of $15,000 and his companies Wynn Sichuan Pty Ltd and Nine Dragons Pty Ltd to pay $95,000 and $88,000 respectively.

The companies’ in-house accountant admitted to being an accessory to the underpayment and record-keeping contraventions, and penalised $11,000.

2016 Audit by the Fair Work Ombudsmanends in 2020 penalty

During an audit in June 2016, Fair Work inspectors found that 30 employees across the two restaurants had been underpaid a total of $30,995 and the regulator took action in 2017.

Inspectors found that 17 employees at Dainty Sichuan were underpaid $18,190 and 13 employees at Tina’s Noodle Kitchen were underpaid $12,805.

FWO findings

Employees were paid flat hourly rates of between $10 per hour and $23.33 per hour in breach of the Restaurant Industry Award 2010. Some worked six or seven days a week, and over 10 hours per day.

The FWO comments

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker welcomed the Court’s penalties.

“The exploitation of migrant workers is unacceptable as they can be particularly vulnerable in the workplace due to language barriers or visa status. Minimum wage rates apply to everyone in Australia, including visa-holders, and they are not negotiable,” Ms Parker said.

“This outcome should serve as a warning to all employers to pay their workers correctly. We encourage any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements to speak up and contact the Fair Work Ombudsman.”

The Federal Court:

The Court accepted the respondents failed to pay minimum wages; overtime; penalty rates for weekends and public holidays; and to keep records and provide payslips.

Judge Grant Riethmuller said a “large proportion” of the restaurant staff were visa holders who spoke Mandarin as their primary language: “Employees with these backgrounds are in a particularly vulnerable position, and that is a factor to which I give significant weight.”

Underpayments paid

The underpayments were rectified before the proceedings began.

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Introduction

The Fair Work Ombudsman has sent out an information in important coronavirus updates, including the JobKeeper scheme and unpaid pandemic leave, including advising of the recent changes to workplace laws to support employees and employers during the coronavirus pandemic.

JobKeeper scheme

The Fair Work Act has been amended to support the implementation and operation of the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme (JobKeeper scheme) in Australian workplaces. These changes are temporary and will end on 28 September 2020.

The JobKeeper scheme helps employers significantly affected by coronavirus to keep paying their employees, by providing a subsidy administered by the Australian Tax Office. The changes also give eligible employers the ability to give certain directions to and make agreements with their eligible employees to help manage their business.

Click on the links to find out more about the JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme, including how it affects and interacts with Pay and Leave entitlements.

Unpaid pandemic leave & annual leave changes to awards

The Fair Work Commission has added a temporary new schedule into 99 awards to provide greater flexibility during the coronavirus pandemic. The temporary schedule gives employees:

  • 2 weeks of unpaid pandemic leave
  • the ability to take twice as much annual leave at half their normal pay if their employer agrees.

The schedule applies from an employee’s first full pay period on or after 8 April 2020 until 30 June 2020. Find out more at Unpaid pandemic leave & annual leave changes to awards.

The Fair Work Commission has also made other temporary changes to some awards to provide more flexibility during the coronavirus outbreak – see Temporary changes to workplace laws during coronavirus.

Annual Wage Review

The Fair Work Commission is in the process of carrying out its annual review of minimum wages. A decision is expected sometime in June. This will be quite interesting, as has been widely reported, the only people to have suffered wage loss during this crisis is the private sector, with the public sector continuing on with EBA’s providing continuing pay increases. This weighed against the ruination of the economy will be a test of fairness against economic reality.

Helpful resources

Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws

If your workplace is impacted by coronavirus, the Fair Work Ombudsman has information about workplace rights and obligations. This includes information about:

  • Stand downs and reducing hours or changing location of work, including working from home.
  • Pay and leave entitlements, including if someone is sick with COVID-19.
  • Entitlements if an employee is stuck overseas or is required to be quarantined or self-isolate.
  • Ending employment and redundancy entitlements.

 

For more information, see Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws.

Safe Work Australia resources

The Safe Work Australia website provides a hub of work health and safety guidance and tools that Australian workplaces can use to manage health and safety risks related to COVID-19. It includes industry-specific guidance, information about physical distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, workers’ compensation, conducting risk assessments and designing emergency plans, and case studies showing how to manage COVID-19 risks in the workplace. Find out more on Safe Work Australia’s website COVID-19 Information for workplaces.