Construction business penalised

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured court orders for more than $33,000 in penalties and back-payment against a Victorian construction business.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a $14,320 penalty against Westbridge Constructions (VIC) Pty Ltd, which is based in Glenburn, a town north-east of Melbourne.

The penalty was imposed in response to Westbridge Constructions (VIC) Pty Ltd failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring it to back-pay entitlements to a young worker it employed as a carpentry apprentice from August 2018 to February 2020.

In addition to the penalty, the Court has ordered the company to pay the worker $18,858.78 in outstanding entitlements owed, plus interest and superannuation.

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.

“When Compliance Notices are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure workers receive their lawful entitlements,” Ms Parker said.

“Employers also need to be aware that taking action to protect vulnerable workers continues to be a priority for the FWO. Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact us for free advice and assistance.”

The FWO commenced an investigation after receiving a request for assistance from the affected worker, who was aged 19 when he started work at Westbridge Constructions (VIC) Pty Ltd.

The Compliance Notice was issued in October 2020 after an inspector formed a belief that the worker had been underpaid minimum wages, overtime rates and annual leave entitlements under the Building and Construction General On-site Award 2010 and the Fair Work Act’s National Employment Standards.

Judge Catherine Symons found that as an apprentice, the affected worker belonged to a vulnerable class of worker and that the amount of money owing to him was significant.

Judge Symons said there was a need to impose a penalty that would deter other employers from ignoring Compliance Notices.

“The compliance notice regime was introduced as a means to quickly and inexpensively resolve underpayment claims. Had the respondent complied with the compliance notice within the time frame specified, this litigation would have been avoided,” Judge Symons said.

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