Overseas workers in Australia need to make sure they are being paid the correct amount, the Fair Work Ombudsman is warning. It says that the Australian arm of a global retail company has recently been fined $59,400 for underpaying 13 employees, including many foreign workers, in Adelaide and Brisbane.
Lycamobile Pty Ltd was handed down the stiff penalty by the Federal Magistrates Court in Brisbane following a prosecution by the Fair Work Ombudsman. The company underpaid 10 employees in Brisbane and three in Adelaide a total of $28,034 between February and September, 2011. Some 12 of the employees were foreign nationals who were employed to promote and sell pre-paid mobile phone SIM cards and top up vouchers. The other employee, based in Brisbane, performed administration duties.
The employees ranged in age from 19 to 36 and several of them were in Australia on student, working holiday and other types of visas. The employees were engaged on a full time or casual basis and were generally paid flat rates of $15 an hour. This led to underpayment of their minimum hourly rates and penalty rates for weekend, public holiday, evening and overtime work.
Employees were also variously underpaid casual loadings, wages in lieu of notice and annual leave entitlements with underpayments ranging from $32 to $6,869 per employee. Fair Work inspectors discovered the underpayments when they investigated complaints lodged by employees – the underpayments were subsequently rectified.
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Fair Work Ombudsman, Nicholas Wilson, said the Court’s decision sends a message that underpayment of vulnerable workers is a serious matter. ‘Young and foreign workers can be particularly vulnerable because they may not be fully aware of their workplace rights and are often reluctant to complain, so we place a high priority on taking action to protect them,’ he explained.
He added that both employers and employees seeking assistance should contact the Fair Work Ombudsman and a free interpreter service is available on its website that is translated into 27 languages. The Fair Work Ombudsman has also launched 14 online videos to assist foreign workers to understand their workplace rights and entitlements.