Geelong receptionist back-paid $20,000 after Fair Work Ombudsman intervenes

18 March 2010

A receptionist for an industrial business in Geelong has been reimbursed $20,000 after an investigation by the Fair Work Ombudsman found she was underpaid.

The woman lodged a complaint when she was made redundant but was not paid her full annual leave entitlements, severance pay and pay in lieu of notice.

After inspectors contacted the employer, the receptionist was promptly paid the money she was owed without the need for further action against the company.

The recovery is one of many cases finalised recently on behalf of workers in and around Geelong.

Fair Work inspectors unearthed the underpayments through a combination of routine audits and investigations into complaints from workers.

Significant underpayments were discovered in the agriculture, hospitality and construction industries.

They include:

  • $13,590 for a worker on a farm west of Geelong who had been underpaid overtime and annual leave entitlements,
  • $13,100 for the manager of a hospitality business on the Bellarine Peninsula underpaid annual leave and sick leave entitlements,
  • $6000 and $2000 for two workers at a Geelong security business underpaid weekend, public holiday and overtime penalty rates,
  • $5890 for a young Geelong labourer underpaid the minimum hourly rate,
  • $5400 for a Geelong retail worker underpaid annual leave entitlements, and
  • $5320 for a Geelong labourer underpaid severance pay and accrued annual leave entitlements.

Fair Work Ombudsman Executive Director Michael Campbell says most of the underpayments were the result of a lack of understanding by employers of their legal obligations, including applicable Awards and pay-scales.

“That’s why the Fair Work Ombudsman places such a strong focus on educating employers and assisting them to understand and comply with workplace laws,” he said.

Mr Campbell says in most cases, the Fair Work Ombudsman does not prosecute employers for inadvertent breaches of workplace laws.

“However, employers need to be aware that they can face fines of up $33,000 per breach if we do take matters to court,” he said.

“Most of the $100 million we have recovered for workers throughout Australia over the past three years has been recouped without resorting to litigation.”

Mr Campbell says employers or employees seeking up-to-date information on wage rates and conditions should visit www.fwo.gov.au or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. Translations are available by calling 13 14 50.

“The Fair Work Ombudsman’s website also includes information and templates to help employers better manage employment records and payslips,” he said.

“Employers need to be aware that under Commonwealth workplace laws they must keep accurate time, wages, annual leave and other employment records and issue sufficiently detailed payslips.”

Eleven Best Practice Guides have been developed by the Fair Work Ombudsman to assist employers make better use of the provisions of the Fair Work Act and better understand other aspects of workplace laws.

The new guides are on the website and cover work and family, consultation and co-operation, individual flexibility arrangements, employing young workers, gender pay equity, small business, workplace privacy, managing underperformance, effective dispute resolution and improving workplace productivity in bargaining.

The Fair Work Ombudsman promotes harmonious, productive and co-operative workplaces. It also monitors compliance and investigates breaches of national workplace laws.

NOTE: We are unable to identify individual businesses or provide additional information about the cases listed.

Media inquiries:

Craig Bildstien, Director Media & Stakeholder Relations,
0419 818 484
craig.bildstien@fwo.gov.au

Ryan Pedler, Media & Stakeholder Relations Senior Adviser
(03) 9954 2561, 0434 365 924
ryan.pedler@fwo.gov.au

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