A Western Sydney homewares retailer, which had stores in Liverpool and Mt Druitt, has been caught underpaying an employee a total of $36,459 between November 2013 and August 2015.
Joyce Homeware was found to be paying a Chinese worker flat rates of $12 and $12.50, while she was entitled to hourly rates of up to $23.74 for normal hours, up to $37.98 on weekends and $55.22 on public holidays.
Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, said exploiting overseas workers is extremely serious misconduct and employers need to realise that overseas workers are entitled to the same minimum wages as Australian citizens.
“We are actively seeking to dispel the myth that it’s OK to pay overseas workers a ‘going rate’ that undercuts the lawful minimum wage rates that apply in Australia,” she explained.
“Minimum wage rates apply to everyone in Australia, regardless of their visa status, and they are not negotiable.
“We treat cases involving underpayment of overseas workers particularly seriously because we are conscious that they can be vulnerable due to a lack of awareness of their entitlements, language barriers and a reluctance to complain.”
The store’s owners-operators, Chinese migrant couple Zheng Yi (Michael) Zhang and Nai Fen (Frances) Pan initially said they didn’t know much about the minimum pay rates and had asked around to find out how much to pay workers. They have agreed to fully back-pay the worker by March this year under the terms of an Enforceable Undertaking (EU) with the Fair Work Ombudsman.
James said she is increasingly concerned about the number of employers from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who are exploiting workers from within their own ethnic communities.
“I want to make it clear that the lawful obligations to pay minimum wage rates, keep appropriate employment records and issue pay slips apply to all employers in Australia and they are not negotiable.
“I understand there are cultural challenges and vastly different laws in other parts of the world, but it is incumbent on all businesses operating in Australia to understand and apply Australian laws. To that end, the Fair Work Ombudsman is here to help with free advice and resources in a range of languages,” she added.
This story originally appeared on Giftguide Online.
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