The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a $5,328 penalty in court against the operator of a dental practice at Ballina, in northern NSW, for a breach affecting a young worker.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed the penalty against sole trader Andrew Richard Chapman, a dentist who is the operator of East Ballina Dental.
The penalty was imposed in response to Dr Chapman failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring him to back-pay entitlements owed to a worker he employed as a part-time dental assistant between October 2020 and July 2021, when she was aged 22 to 23.
In addition to the penalties, the Court has ordered Dr Chapman to back-pay the worker in full.
Fair Work Ombudsman Anna Booth said business operators that fail to act on Compliance Notices need to be aware they can face penalties in court on top of having to back-pay workers.
“When Compliance Notices are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure workers receive all their lawful entitlements,” Ms Booth said.
“Employers also need to be aware that taking action to protect vulnerable workers, like young workers, is a priority for the FWO. Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance.”
The FWO investigated after receiving a request for assistance from the affected worker.
A Fair Work Inspector issued a Compliance Notice to Dr Chapman in November 2021 after forming a belief he had not paid the worker’s accrued but untaken annual leave entitlements at the end of her employment, owed under the Fair Work Act’s National Employment Standards.
In his penalty judgment, Judge Gregory Egan found Dr Chapman had shown no contrition for his conduct and had expressed anger towards the Fair Work Ombudsman and contempt towards the affected worker for seeking to enforce compliance with workplace laws.
Judge Egan found there was a need to impose a penalty to deter Dr Chapman and other employers from similar conduct in future.
“The imposition of a pecuniary penalty should demonstrate to the public at large that should there be a contravention of provisions of the Fair Work Act, such penalties are of a sufficient amount as to be of significance,” Judge Egan said.
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. An interpreter service is available on 13 14 50.
The FWO provides a free online course to help employers understand what a Compliance Notice is and how to respond if they get one. The Compliance Notice course, among a suite of free interactive courses on offer for employers, managers and employees, is available in our online learning centre.
Small businesses can find targeted resources at the Small Business Showcase.