A Western Australian franchisee is facing record penalties under recent Protecting Vulnerable Workers laws.
The legal action comes as a result of the employer allegedly repeatedly ripping off migrant workers.
As a result, it’s the first time the Fair Work Ombudsman has launched legal action using the laws, after coming into effect in September 2017.
They carry maximum penalties of:
- $630,000 for each serious contravention by a company
- and $126,000 for an individual
As a result, the penalties are now 10-times which would ordinarily apply.
Franchisee facing record penalties in Federal Circuit Court
Facing the Federal Circuit Court are:
- Cuc Thi Thu Pham, the former manager of the Hans Cafe at Rockingham,
- and Tac Pham Pty Ltd – the former franchisee of the outlet.
Fair Work alleges Pham breached pay slip laws and underpaid 11 workers a total of $5,022 between October 2017 and April 2018.
Allegations include underpayment of:
- ordinary minimum hourly rates,
- penalty rates,
- minimum shift-pay
- and an allowance,
- and breaches of pay slip laws.
Furthermore, it is alleged that two of the contraventions meet the definition of ‘serious contraventions’ under the Protecting Vulnerable Laws as a result of repeat offending.
The legal action comes after Fair Work secured $45,000 in penalties against Tac Pham Pty Ltd and Pham last year.
Those involved breaches of pay slip laws and underpayments of $27,920 involving 22 staff.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker says the increase in maximum penalties are the result of community concerns about worker exploitation.
“Employers are on notice that the Fair Work Ombudsman is making full use of the Protecting Vulnerable Workers laws to ensure that any individuals or companies who commit serious contraventions are held to account.”
Criminal penalties needed
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan renewed his calls for criminal penalties for wage theft.
“If it’s determined that Ms Pham is indeed a serial wage thief, then she should consequently be sent to jail like all other thieves are,” he said.
“Until the federal government gets serious about this issue, then people like Ms Pham will continue to steal from their workers – when is enough enough?” he asked.
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Fair Work Claims is a private consultancy and advocacy firm with no affiliation to any government agency, commission or tribunal.