The business that makes the popular Mountain Bread flatbreads has been ordered to reimburse a former worker more than $22,000 after the Fair Work Ombudsman found underpayments dating back over a period of 20 months.
Mountain Bread products are stocked in major supermarkets, but the family owned business was found to have underpaid the worker entitlements including minimum hourly rates, overtime and weekend and public holiday rates between June 2013 and March this year.
The 30-year-old worker, a Taiwanese backpacker on a 417 working holiday visa, was paid a flat rate of $16 an hour but was entitled to receive $21.69 an hour for normal house and $54.23 an hour on public holidays.
The ombudsman also found the bakery’s Chinese speaking production line managers frequently recruited backpackers and international students.
The bakery has entered into an enforceable undertaking with Fair Work and agreed to hire an independent expert to ensure it is compliant with workplace law over the next year.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said in a statement Mountain Bread had cooperated with the ombudsman.
“We use enforceable undertakings where we have formed a view that a breach of the law has occurred, but where the employer has acknowledged this, accepted responsibility and agreed to co-operate and fix the problem,” she said.
Rachel Drew, partner at TressCox Lawyers, told SmartCompany this is a situation involving a small business employer that has not familiarised itself properly with the provisions of award.
She says it appears Mountain Bread had a practice of rostering working holiday visa holders in out-of-hours timeslots.
“While there is some suggestion they were deliberately using visa holders for out-of-hours work, the FWO seems to have accepted it is inadvertent and through lack of knowledge of award,” Drew says.
Drew says the onus is on small businesses to remain complaint with workplace laws.
“The obligation always remains with the business to find out what their workplace obligations are,” she says.
“They need to get copy of the relevant award and make sure their knowledge of penalty rates and hourly rates remains current.”
Drew says while a lack of knowledge is unfortunately “very common” among small business owners, it does not reduce their liability.
“It is often difficult for a small business to keep up with industrial obligations but it is very important and particularly when engaging in… migrant workers,” she says.
SmartCompany contacted Mountain Bread but did not receive a response prior to publication.