Online directory business penalised

The Fair Work Ombudsman has secured a total of $18,144 in penalties in court against the operators of an online business based in the Melbourne suburb of Cranbourne North.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court has imposed a $15,120 penalty against PEBS Group Pty Ltd, which sells advertising space in the online directory www.rainbowflag.com.au.

In addition, the Court has imposed a $3,024 penalty against the company’s manager and sole director, Shane McGrath.

The penalties were imposed in response to the company breaching the Fair Work Act by failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring it to back-pay five employees. Mr McGrath was involved in the breach.

PEBS Group back-paid the workers the total of more than $8,000 in wages, entitlements and superannuation owed to them only after the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced legal action.

Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said the regulator would continue to enforce workplace laws in a proportionate manner during the COVID-19 pandemic and take business operators to court where lawful requests are not complied with.

“Where employers do not comply, we will take appropriate action to protect employees. A court can order a business to pay penalties in addition to back-paying workers.”

“Any employees with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman for free assistance,” Ms Parker said.

The Fair Work Ombudsman investigated after receiving requests for assistance from telemarketing employees, who had been engaged by PEBS Group to cold call businesses to try to get them to buy advertising space in the online directory.

A Fair Work Inspector issued a Compliance Notice to PEBS Group in February 2020 after forming a belief that the company had underpaid five employees, including three young workers, for periods of work between June and August, 2019.

The inspector believed that four of the employees were paid no wages at all, while the other was not paid for all hours worked, resulting in underpayment of wages and leave entitlements under the Clerks Private Sector Award 2010.

Judge Heather Riley found that the failure to comply with the Compliance Notice was deliberate. Judge Riley found that PEBS Group and Mr McGrath had not expressed any contrition or regret and that there was a need to impose a penalty to deter others from similar conduct.

“Penalties need to be set at a level that ensures that employers generally do not treat penalties as a trifling ‘cost of doing business’,” Judge Riley 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. Small businesses can find targeted resources at the Small Business Showcase.

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