The Ironing Shop franchisee penalised
The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a total of $112,420 in penalties in court against the operators of four ‘The Ironing Shop’ outlets in Brisbane after they paid a Chinese national wages as low as $8 an hour and made use of false or misleading records.
The Federal Circuit Court has imposed a $74,700 penalty against ANS.HL Trading Pty Ltd, which operates ‘The Ironing Shop’ franchise at Teneriffe, Kangaroo Point, Norman Park and Ascot, offering services such as ironing, dry cleaning, clothing repairs and clothing alterations.
In addition, the court has imposed a penalty of $18,860 against each of the company’s directors, Mr Yuyin Luo and Ms Shujing Hou.
The penalties were imposed after a Chinese national employed across the four outlets was paid a flat rate of $8 an hour, later increasing to $12, over a two-year period from 2015 to 2017.
The worker, then aged in her mid-20s and in Australia on student and bridging visas, was underpaid a total of $28,404.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the penalties sent a clear message about the seriousness of paying workers unlawfully low flat rates.
“The alleged payment of low flat rates that undercut award entitlements is completely unacceptable. Employers must pay all employees according to Australia’s lawful minimum pay rates. Workers who are on visas are entitled to receive exactly the same rates as Australian workers,” Ms Parker said.
Fair Work Inspectors commenced an investigation after the affected worker lodged a request for assistance in 2018.
They found the payment of low flat rates had resulted in underpayment of the ordinary hourly rates, casual loading, overtime rates and Saturday penalty rates the worker was entitled to under the Dry Cleaning and Laundry Industry Award 2010.
ANS.HL Trading also failed to make the required superannuation contributions. The underpayments were rectified in 2019.
Mr Luo, Ms Hou and their company also breached workplace laws related to frequency of payment, keeping and making use of false records, and failing to issue pay slips.
Judge Michael Jarrett rejected claims by the directors, Mr Luo and Ms Hou, that, having come to Australia from China, they did not know the flat rates they paid the affected worker were unlawful. Judge Jarrett noted that they had falsified records to make it look as though the worker had been paid $24 per hour.
Judge Jarrett found that there had been a significant underpayment over a prolonged period, during which the employee was paid only just over half of what she was entitled to.
“The penalties in this case must be set at a level such that it would be likely to act as a deterrent in preventing similar contraventions by like-minded persons,” Judge Jarrett said.
Judge Jarrett also ordered Mr Luo, Ms Hou and their company to register with the My account portal at www.fairwork.gov.au and complete all courses for employers.
Employers and employees can visit www.fairwork.gov.au or call the Fair Work Infoline on 13 13 94 for free advice about their rights and obligations. A free interpreter service is on 13 14 50.
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Ryan Pedler, Assistant Director - Media
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