Disability services organisation in court

24 May 2021

The Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced legal action in the Federal Circuit Court against the operators of a disability services company in Perth.

Facing court are Sunflower Care Services Pty Ltd, which provides care services to people with a disability in residential settings in Western Australia, and the company’s sole owner and director, Joseph Karunarathna.

The regulator investigated the company after an employee lodged a request for assistance.

A Fair Work Inspector issued a Compliance Notice to Sunflower Care Services in November 2020 after forming a belief that the company had underpaid six employees, engaged as support workers, a total of $80,280.91 between 2015 and 2020.

The employees included a visa holder from India and a visa holder from Ireland.

The six employees had allegedly been underpaid minimum wages and entitlements under the Social, Community and Disability Services Industry Equal Remuneration Order 2012; the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010 and the Fair Work Act 2009.

The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges the company without reasonable excuse, failed to fully comply with the Compliance Notice, which required it to pay the employees’ outstanding entitlements. Mr Karunarathna was allegedly involved in the breach.

In line with the FWO’s proportionate approach to regulation during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FWO made several attempts to secure full compliance before commencing legal action.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the regulator would continue to enforce workplace laws and take businesses to court where lawful requests are not complied with.

“Compliance Notices are important tools used by inspectors to deal with apparent contraventions of the Fair Work Act or industrial instruments, most typically Modern Awards,” Ms Parker said. 

“Where employers do not respond to or comply with these Notices, we will take appropriate enforcement action to protect employees. A court can order a business to pay penalties for not complying with such a Notice, in addition to back-paying workers as appropriate.”

“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free assistance.”

The FWO is seeking a penalty against Sunflower Care Services Pty Ltd and Mr Karunarathna. The company faces a penalty of up to $33,300 and Mr Karunarathna faces a penalty of up to $6,660.

The regulator is also seeking a court order for the company to take the action required to comply with the Compliance Notice, which includes rectifying the alleged underpayment in full, plus superannuation and interest.

A directions hearing is listed in the Federal Circuit Court in Perth on 16 June 2021.

Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice and assistance about their rights and obligations in the workplace. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

Follow the Fair Work Ombudsman @fairwork_gov_au External link icon or find us on Facebook www.facebook.com/fairwork.gov.au External link icon.

Sign up to receive the Fair Work Ombudsman’s media releases direct to your email inbox at www.fairwork.gov.au/mediareleases.

Media inquiries:

Ryan Pedler, Assistant Director - Media
Mobile: 0411 430 902
ryan.pedler@fwo.gov.au

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