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Fair Work Ombudsman Fines

Recent Fair Work penalties for underpayments & non-compliance could have been avoided

A media release from the Fair Work Ombudsman on 8 July has reported that the body has secured penalties of $243,000 against the operators of several fruit and vegetable and flower stores in the Melbourne region.

The penalties were levied for various compliance breaches including gross underpayment of workers, offering less than minimum wage in cash, falsifying employment records, and demanding employees work unreasonable additional hours over and above the Award requirement.

Court action resulted in the Federal Circuit Court ordering A&S Wholesale Fruit and Vegetables Pty Ltd, trading as Parkmore Fruit and Vege Market and Melbourne MarketPlace, to pay the penalties in addition to individual penalties to the company’s director and operations manager.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said: “We have no tolerance for employers who think they can choose to pay workers a flat rate of pay that undercuts a worker’s minimum entitlements, or who try to hide it with unlawful ‘off the books’ practices.”

While this recent case is shocking in terms of the abuse of power by the employer, it is more shocking in that it was completely preventable.

Some may argue that the Modern Awards system is complicated to interpret and apply, or that the costs of complying and paying employees correctly are harmful to small businesses. However, Fair Work penalties, high employee turnover and the destruction of a company’s reputation are considerably more damaging.

The good news is that technology exists to automates Modern Award and Fair Work compliance, preventing underpayment, pay slip breaches, incorrect rostering and non-compliant record keeping.

This new breed of workforce management system – of which Roubler is a leading provider – features in-built Modern Award Interpretation and compliance tools (for example notifications and alerts when a task breaches a compliance requirement) that are always working behind the scenes to help owners and managers run their workforce correctly. An ‘always on’ type of compliance protection that takes the work out of meeting your obligations as an employer.

The Fair Work Ombudsmen stated that: “Accurate and timely record-keeping is a fundamental obligation of any employer and whenever we find false records we will consider court action, with increased penalties now available.”

While technology is readily available, it is still up to business owners and operators to make the decision to comply with Fair Work legislation.

With Fair Work’s tough stance on non-compliance and heavy penalties, it’s time that industries who are frequently in the firing line – namely retail and hospitality – invest in their future sustainability by using workforce management software with in-built compliance tools and Modern Award interpretation. And it’s not just for their protection – but for the proper treatment and care of their employees to which they owe their success.

Andrew Northcott, CEO & Founder

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