The former owner of a cafe in Belconnen has been fined more than $56,000 for failing to properly keep records of pay checks to employees.
It was one of 80 ACT businesses audited earlier this year by the Fair Work Ombudsman, some 40 per cent of which were still “non-compliant” with workplace laws during a recent follow up audit.
The $56,840 penalty against the director of Global Trading and Investment Group, Dr Nathem Al-Naser and his company, the former operator of Cafe on Benjamin in Belconnen, was handed down late last month.
An FWO audit of 80 businesses previously found non-compliant found 48, or 60 per cent, had met all workplace laws the second time round.
But it also found 40 per cent were not meeting their legal requirements, with 16 breaches of laws governing pay rates, 11 breaches of pay check or record-keeping laws and five businesses with breaches in both areas.
The ACT campaign targeted mostly businesses in hospitality and restaurants as well as the beauty sector, recovering $31,087 for 120 workers, while inspectors issued 17 formal “letters of caution”, eight infringement notices and one compliance notice.
As part of the work, the Ombudsman took legal action against Dr Al-Naser, as well as a second separate case against Yang Brothers Investment Pty Ltd, which runs Cafe Garema in Civic.
That case is still before the court, with the firm facing allegations its record-keeping was so poor that inspectors were “obstructed” from figuring out if workers were actually getting their minimum pay packets.
Ombudsman Natalie James said the FWO treated record-keeping breaches seriously, “particularly when our inspectors are hindered from determining whether workers have received their correct entitlements”.
“While Fair Work inspectors go to great lengths to reconstruct time and wage records in circumstances where the employer has failed to meet their obligations, the sad reality is that sometimes in the absence of accurate records, it is not possible to establish whether a worker has received their lawful pay,” she said.
Ms James also said the penalties handed down in the case against Global Training and Investment Group showed there was “a heavy price to pay for breaches of workplace laws”, particularly since the recent doubling of maximum penalties.
Dr Al-Naser and his company admitted to the court they failed to keep employee records or issue pay slips to employees and the court also ordered he complete online FWO courses and complete workplace relations compliance training.