The Federal Circuit Court has penalised a Sydney businessman $28,900 for underpaying employees at his former childcare centre over $360,000.
Following legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), the court found that Mark Edward Myles had underpaid child-care workers a total of $361,955 between 2008 and 2013, during the time the Bollygum Childcare Centre was based at South Penrith and then Lethbridge Park.
Judge Robert Cameron heard that the underpayments had wide-reaching repercussions, from struggles to pay rent, to detrimental effects on family. A centre manager had been underpaid $49,533 over a four-year period, an issue that she had tried to clarify with Myles. The manager’s children and marriage were found to have suffered as a consequence.
A centre supervisor underpaid $39,350 saw her working hours reduced by Myles when she lodged a complaint with the FWO, a move that Judge Cameron said was “a matter of particular concern”.
“The action taken towards (the supervisor) is indicative of either a culpable ignorance of employees’ rights or a contumacious disregard of them,” Judge Cameron said.
“It also revealed a wrongful hostility to the exercise of such rights.”
Other court findings include almost $15,000 gone unpaid to an 18-year-old trainee, who was subsequently unable to pay her bills without financial assistance, and $33,000 gone unpaid to an employee who had difficulty applying for Austudy due to Myles failing to supply her with pay slips and not rectifying payments on time.
The FWO provided the court with evidence that one employee had been paid a mere $2.15 an hour, while three employees had been paid rates as little as $3.31, $3.37 and $3.98 an hour.
“The fact that these underpayments occurred despite this business operator having been warned about the need to pay his young staff correctly is completely unacceptable,” Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James said.
“Successful legal actions such as this also benefit employers who are doing the right thing, because it helps them compete on a level playing field.”