Media release

17 July 2009

Watchdog recovers $28,000 for labourers

The Fair Work Ombudsman has recovered $28,000 for two Shepparton labourers who were underpaid.

It was discovered the pair – employed by different employers – were being inadvertently short-changed after they separately lodged complaints with the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Workplace inspectors found that one of the two, who is nearing retirement age, had been underpaid $20,000 in accrued annual leave and long service leave.

The second man, in his 30s, had been underpaid $8100 as a result of his employer underpaying his minimum hourly rate and overtime over 16 months.

The employee had been engaged on a “hand-shake” agreement and was paid a flat rate for all hours worked.

Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says that after Bendigo-based inspectors spoke to the employers about their payment obligations under workplace law, they each reimbursed their former staff.

“In these cases, we are satisfied the underpayment was inadvertent and the result of ignorance,” Mr Campbell said.

“As the employers have fully co-operated and promptly rectified the situation we have chosen not to pursue these matters in court.

“However, employers who fail to pay workers properly can face fines of up to $33,000 per breach of workplace law.

“Employers have an obligation to keep up-to-date with minimum wage rates and we take instances of businesses underpaying employees very seriously.

“I would encourage any employer who is unsure of what to pay their staff to contact our Infoline on 13 13 94 for advice.”

The Fair Work Ombudsman has been charged with assisting to build more co-operative, harmonious and productive Australian workplaces.

Mr Campbell says the Fair Work Ombudsman can help workers and employers to understand the recent changes to Australia’s workplace relations laws, including the new unfair and unlawful dismissal laws, agreement making provisions, transfer of business rules and workplace rights actions.

Employers or employees seeking assistance should contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 or visit

Media inquiries:

Craig Bildstien, Director Media & Stakeholder Relations,
0419 818 484

Ryan Pedler, Media & Stakeholder Relations Senior Adviser
(03) 9954 2561, 0434 365 924


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Page last updated: 17 Jul 2009