$30,000 back-pay for Cairns workers

23 July 2013

Underpaid workers in Cairns have been back-paid $30,500 following recent intervention by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

In one case, a young worker was underpaid $11,900 because he was being paid at apprentice rates, even though his employer hadn’t registered him for an electrical apprenticeship.

Under workplace laws, only workers who are registered as apprentices with the appropriate State authority can be classified and paid as apprentices.

Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, said the case highlights the importance of classifying employees correctly.

“Even a small error can easily result in a large amount having to be repaid if it’s left unchecked, as occurred in this case,” said Ms James.

“No business wants to face a big bill for back-payment of wages they weren’t budgeting for.”

Other recent recoveries include:

  • $10,300 for a motel cleaner underpaid the minimum hourly rate between 2009 and 2012, and
  • $8,300 for an administration officer at a landscaping business underpaid redundancy pay entitlements upon termination of employment earlier this year.

In all cases, the employees were reimbursed all money owed without the need for further action after Fair Work Inspectors contacted the businesses and explained their obligations.

Ms James said when Fair Work Inspectors identify a problem and contact a business, most employers cross-check their records, realise they have made an error, and fix it immediately.

“Our focus is on educating employers about their obligations and helping them to put processes in place to ensure that any errors we find don’t occur again,” Ms James said.

The Fair Work Ombudsman’s website - www.fairwork.gov.au - contains a variety of tools, including an Award Finder and PayCheck Plus, to help business owners determine the correct pay rates, classifications and minimum entitlements for workers.

Small to medium-sized businesses without human resources staff can also ensure they are better equipped when hiring, managing and dismissing employees by using free template employment documentation available online.

Employers and employees seeking further information and advice can also call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.

Follow the Fair Work Ombudsman on Twitter @fairwork_gov_au external-icon.png or find us on Facebook external-icon.png.

Media inquiries:

Tom McPherson, Media & Stakeholder Relations
0439 835 855

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