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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Brisbane supermarket fined $20k for staff underpayment

The operator of a supermarket in Brisbane’s south has been fined $20,500 after an investigation by Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman found a staff member had been underpaid.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court imposed a $17,000 penalty against Universal Asian Supermarket Southbnk Pty Ltd and $3,500 against sole director Songbo (Alex) Yang.

The penalties were imposed in response to Universal Asian Supermarket Southbnk Pty Ltd failing to comply with a Compliance Notice requiring the calculation and back-payment of entitlements owed to a part-time retail assistant, and Mr Yang’s involvement with the contravention, the Ombudsman said in a statement today.

The company back-paid the worker, a student visa holder from China, after the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced legal action, it said.

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 such as student visa holders 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 regulator investigated after receiving a request for assistance from the affected worker, who was aged in her early 20s at the time of her employment. She worked at the supermarket from June 2019 to September 2020.

A Fair Work Inspector issued a Compliance Notice to Universal Asian Supermarket Southbnk in March 2021 after forming a belief the worker had not been paid all entitlements owed under the General Retail Industry Award 2010.

The inspector formed a belief that the employee, who was paid flat rates of about $12 per hour, was underpaid minimum wages, evening and weekend penalties, overtime rates and public holiday pay, and was not paid out their accrued but untaken annual leave on termination of their employment.

Visa holder workers were involved in 32% of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s new court actions in 2020-21.

The FWO has an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs, called the Assurance Protocol, where visa holders with work rights can seek help without fear of their visa being cancelled.

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. A free interpreter service is available on 13 14 50. Small businesses can find targeted resources at the Small Business Showcase.

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