Near $100,000 penalties for Toorak mortgage broking business and manager

8 March 2024

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured $99,900 in penalties in court against a Melbourne mortgage broking business and its manager for failing to take steps required to backpay workers.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed penalties in two separate decisions totalling $83,250 against Ansa Finance Pty Ltd, which is based in Toorak, and penalties totalling $16,650 against company manager Joshua Fuoco.

The penalties were imposed in response to Ansa Finance failing to comply with Compliance Notices requiring the back-payment of five workers and failing to issue pay slips to one of the workers. Mr Fuoco was involved in the contraventions.

Ansa Finance had employed the workers as finance brokers for various periods between February 2020 and November 2021.

In addition to the penalties, the Court in both cases has ordered Ansa Finance to comply with the Compliance Notices, which includes rectifying any underpayments in full, plus interest and superannuation. The workers were underpaid an estimated total of more than $17,000.

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.

“The substantial total penalties here are a reminder to all employers of what they risk when Compliance Notices are not followed - we will pursue enforcement through court action,” Ms Booth said.

“We act to protect the rights of employees. Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance.”

The FWO investigated after receiving requests for assistance from the affected workers.

A Fair Work Inspector issued five Compliance Notices to Ansa Finance in 2021 and 2022 in response to the company underpaying five workers’ minimum wages, leave entitlements and payment-in-lieu-of-notice at the end of employment, under the Banking, Finance and Insurance Industry Award 2020 and the Fair Work Act’s National Employment Standards.

The Compliance Notices required the company to calculate and back-pay the workers’ entitlements.

In a decision concerning four of the Compliance Notices, Judge Jonathan Forbes found that the failure to comply with the Compliance Notices was deliberate and that Ansa Finance and Mr Fuoco had not demonstrated any remorse.

“The whole of the evidence points to acts of conscious evasion of responsibility where the respondents have chosen to put their own interests ahead of the employees’ right to be paid,” Judge Forbes said.

Judge Forbes also found in that case that Mr Fuoco had not taken corrective steps or action, despite indicating at different stages that he would rectify underpayments to the employees.

“Where Compliance Notices are issued and an employer is afforded an opportunity to correct shortcomings, the notices should be met with compliance. Notices cannot be ignored,” Judge Forbes said in that case.

In a second decision relating to the fifth Compliance Notice, Judge Forbes found that the conduct was serious and “imposed unnecessary cost and inconvenience upon the Ombudsman and the Court”.

In both decisions, Judge Forbes found that there was a need to impose penalties to deter Ansa Finance, Mr Fuoco and other employers from similar contraventions in future.

Employers and employees can visit 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.

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