The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a total of $15,318 in penalties in court against the operators of an electrical services business in Melbourne for a deliberate contravention that affected two vulnerable young apprentices.
The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a $13,320 penalty against DB Richardson Trading Pty Ltd, which operated an electrical services business trading as ‘Electrafi’ at Springvale South, and a $1,998 penalty against the company’s sole director, Desmond Brian Richardson.
The penalties were imposed in response to DB Richardson Trading Pty Ltd failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring it to back-pay entitlements to two young workers it employed as electrical workers for various periods between January 2020 and February 2021.
Both workers had been apprentices for about half of their employment.
Mr Richardson was involved in the contravention.
The Court has also ordered the company to take the steps required by the Compliance Notice, including calculating and back-paying the workers’ outstanding entitlements in full, plus superannuation and interest.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said business operators that fail to act on Compliance Notices need to be aware they can face court-imposed penalties on top of having to back-pay workers.
“Protecting vulnerable workers, like young workers, continues to be a priority for the FWO. The underpayments in this case were significant and we have now secured court orders to force the employer to make back-payment, plus penalties to deter this occurring again.”
“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance,” Ms Parker said.
The FWO investigated after receiving requests for assistance from the affected workers.
The Compliance Notice was issued in September 2021 after a Fair Work Inspector formed a belief that the company underpaid the workers’ minimum wages under the Electrical, Electronic and Communications Award 2010, Electrical, Electronic and Communications Award 2020 and annual leave entitlements under the Fair Work Act’s National Employment Standards.
In the proceedings, the FWO had alleged that one of the workers, aged 20 to 21 during his employment, had been paid a total of just $100 for approximately five months of casual work and four months of full-time work between May 2020 and February 2021.
The FWO alleged that the other worker, aged 19 during his employment, had been paid a total of just $3,250 for more than three months of casual work and more than seven months of part-time work between January and December in 2020.
In imposing the penalties, Judge Amanda Mansini found, that as apprentices, the two workers were “naturally disposed” to “greater vulnerability”.
Judge Mansini said the “degree of underpayment and consequential loss” suffered by the workers was serious, noting that they remained unpaid.
Judge Mansini said the failure to comply with the Compliance Notice was deliberate and that there was a need to deter DB Richardson Trading Pty Ltd and Mr Richardson, and other employers, from similar future conduct.
“It is important that the penalty be imposed at a level sufficient to discourage such contraventions being treated by employers in the electrical industry as just another cost of doing business,” Judge Mansini said.