Cleaners, hospitality staff get $100k in back-pay

1 April 2015 

Cleaners and hospitality workers in Sydney's South and South-West have been back-paid more than $100,000 following recent intervention by the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Two cleaners at a Kentlyn business were reimbursed $60,000 after they were made redundant and their employer initially failed to pay them anything at all.

The workers should have received outstanding annual leave entitlements, accrued long service leave and redundancy pay.

After being contacted by Fair Work inspectors, the employer promptly rectified the issue, blaming cash-flow problems.

Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James says employers must ensure that when an employment relationship ends they pay-out their employees’ full termination entitlements.

“Paying workers correctly on termination of employment is just as important as ensuring workers are paid their full entitlements throughout their employment,” Ms James said.

“Termination entitlements play a vital supporting role for workers while they attempt to find alternative employment.”

Other recent recoveries include:

  • $22,400 for four cleaners at a Casula business, including three overseas workers, who were short-changed their minimum hourly rates, shift allowances public holiday, weekend and overtime penalty rates
  • $8200 for nine waiters and waitresses at a Canley Heights restaurant who were underpaid their weekend penalty rates
  • $8000 for four cleaners at a Kurnell business who were short-changed their part-time and casual loadings
  • $5400 for the manager of a Mascot-based hospitality business who failed to receive her annual leave entitlements on termination.

Ms James says the underpaid employees were reimbursed all money owed after Fair Work inspectors contacted the employers and explained their workplace obligations.

Dozens of housekeepers who clean rooms at Sydney’s Four Points by Sheraton hotel on Darling Harbour are having their pay packets reviewed after recent inquiries by the Fair Work Ombudsman found they were being underpaid.

The housekeepers are mostly young Asian workers in Australia as international students or backpackers on the 417 working holiday visa.

Four Points by Sheraton does not directly employ the cleaners, who work for a sub-contractor, Strathfield-based ATM Cleaning Management Pty Ltd.

ATM has signed an Enforceable Undertaking with the Fair Work Ombudsman and agreed to review the pay packets of all employees dating back to June last year, and then pro-actively back-pay all outstanding wages and entitlements that may be owing.

The company has also agreed to make a $2000 donation to the Cleaning Accountability Framework, a group of key stakeholders working with the Fair Work Ombudsman to ensure compliance and best practice in the cleaning sector.

The Fair Work Ombudsman also recently announced that it had recouped $763,000 for 1200 underpaid cleaners throughout Australia as a result of a national pro-active education and compliance campaign in the cleaning industry.

The campaign involved audits of 578 cleaning businesses and 356 (62 per cent) were found to be fully compliant with their workplace obligations.

The remaining employers were found to have underpaid staff, breached record-keeping and pay slip requirements, or both.

The underpaid employees included a number of young workers, overseas workers and students.

The campaign was a follow-up to a 2010 campaign which recouped almost $500 000 for 900 cleaners nationally.

Ms James says the overwhelming majority of employers want to do the right thing by their employees and get it right when it comes to workplace laws.

“We find that most mistakes are due to a lack of awareness of workplace laws, rather than employers deliberately doing the wrong thing,” she said.

Ms James says the Fair Work Ombudsman is working hard to build a culture of compliance with workplace laws to ensure an even playing field for all businesses.

Employers or employees seeking advice can visit the website  or contact the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94.

A free interpreter service is also available on 13 14 50.

The Fair Work Ombudsman supports compliant, productive and inclusive Australian workplaces.

Free tools and resources on the website include calculators to help work out modern award pay rates, understand annual and personal leave entitlements, calculate payment based on hours entered into a shift calculator and work out entitlements when ending employment.

The Fair Work Ombudsman has information in 27 different languages on the website as well as fact sheets tailored to overseas workers and international students.

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