The Fair Work Ombudsman is taking an Adelaide windscreen company to court over allegedly underpaying seven employees more than $100,000 over a period of four years.
But the director of the company intends to defend his company – and himself – against the allegations, telling SmartCompany this morning he plans to fight the allegations in court.
“They’re wrong, simple as that,” Complete Windscreens director Lindsay Dean told SmartCompany this morning.
The case is yet another example of underpayment cases brought before the Federal Court by the Fair Work Ombudsman, which has been eagerly chasing businesses accused of underpaying workers, especially workers from other countries.
The Fair Work Ombudsman alleges Complete Windscreens underpaid seven employees, including three teenagers, a total of nearly $100,000. Lindsay Dean is also facing court.
The FWO argues the employees were paid flat hourly rates ranging from $12.50 to $21.62, “resulting in the employees variously being underpaid their minimum hourly rates, casual loadings and penalty rates”, it said.
The FWO also said the employees were directed to work through lunch periods without a break, and then weren’t paid for that time. One employee has also accused the company of underpaying annual and personal leave entitlements.
Lindsay Dean has also been accused of breaching workplace laws – he faces fines of up to $6600 per breach.
But Dean told SmartCompany he doesn’t believe the company has done anything wrong and called the accusations “rubbish”.
“We’re not going to be blackmailed, and we’re going to argue for costs,” he says. “They’re trying to damage our business in the meantime by putting this out there.”
The case comes as a number of businesses have faced underpayment cases. Business groups have complained the wage system is too hard to understand, with businesses likely to make mistakes because of the complexity of different awards and rates.
TressCox Laywers partner Rachel Drew told SmartCompany many businesses could make a mistake by not updating their information often enough.
“It’s simply a matter of keeping yourself up to date,” she says. “Particularly in areas like employment, information can change frequently.”
“Underpayment claims can arise because the employer might have originally paid the same rate but after 15 years, that can change, and it becomes the catalyst for an underpayment case.”
Businesses say they have got into trouble before because they don’t have access to current information regarding pay rates. But Drew says this isn’t always an excuse and business owners need to put in the effort to make sure they have as much information as possible.
“At least an annual audit of your employment issues is really important.”