Childcare centre accused of underpaying “young, vulnerable” workers

The Fair Work Ombudsman says the involvement of young workers was a key factor in the decision to prosecute the owner-operator of a childcare centre for allegedly underpaying staff.

 

The Ombudsman is prosecuting Gina Moelau, who owns and operates the Rainbow Paradise Pre-School childcare centre in the Sydney suburb of Blacktown.

 

The centre specialises in long daycare for children with special needs. Moelau is facing court for allegedly underpaying three teenage employees more than $8,000.

 

Also facing court is Moelau’s private company, Rainbow Paradise Preschool Childhood Development and Education Long Day Care Centre Pty Ltd, through which she operates the childcare centre.

 

It is alleged Moelau’s company underpaid three childcare centre employees a total of $8,491 between July 2009 and November 2011.

 

All three employees were aged 19 when they began working at the centre. Two of the employees performed duties including supervising children, while the third prepared meals and cleaned.

 

It’s alleged the employees were variously underpaid their minimum wages and hourly rates, annual leave entitlements and wages in lieu of notice of termination.

 

One employee was allegedly not provided with paid rest breaks.

 

It is also alleged notices to produce employment records issued by Fair Work inspectors were not complied with, and laws relating to frequency of pay and pay slips were breached.

 

The alleged underpayments of individual employees are $4,708, $2,258 and $1,525.

 

Fair Work inspectors first discovered the alleged underpayments when they investigated complaints from the employees.

 

It’s alleged Moelau knew all three employees were being underpaid because inspectors had previously provided her with information on lawful pay rates when investigating several other underpayment complaints against her business.

 

The complaints were resolved through Moelau’s business voluntarily back-paying employees.

 

According to Fair Work Ombudsman Nicholas Wilson, the history of underpayment complaints and involvement of vulnerable, young workers were key factors in the decision to prosecute.

 

The Ombudsman alleges Moelau and her company committed several breaches of workplace laws. They face maximum penalties per breach of up to $6,600 and $33,000 respectively.

 

The Ombudsman is also seeking a court order for Moelau’s company to rectify the alleged underpayments of the employees.

 

A directions hearing is listed for September 7 in the Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney.

 

The news comes less than three months after a Subway franchisee was prosecuted for allegedly underpaying 11 staff more than $50,000.

 

The Ombudsman said the decision to prosecute was made because of the significant amount involved for vulnerable, young workers, suggesting the Ombudsman is becoming increasingly concerned about the treatment of such workers.

 

In January, Toys ‘R’ Us pledged a $300,000 donation towards the cost of educating and training young and vulnerable workers about their workplace rights, after the Ombudsman prosecuted the retail giant for underpaying more than 1,000 employees, including teenagers.

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