The Federal Circuit Court has lashed out at a health services company for demonstrating a “flagrant disregard” for its first aid responders who were underpaid thousands of dollars.
Following legal action by the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), Acute Health and its director Paul Tempany were collectively fined $300,000 for the underpayments, which occurred between March 2014 and December 2015. The penalty comes on top of the order to reimburse workers a total of $13,715.
The six affected casual employees were hired to provide first aid services at various events across Victoria and NSW. Most were university students reliant on the work to support themselves while studying.
According to the FWO, most of the workers were hired on flat hourly rates of $25, well short of the award conditions for overtime and public holiday penalty rates of up to $48.53 per hour.
However in some instances, Acute Health was found to not have paid the workers anything for some hours worked, including one worker who received nothing for around 30 hours of work.
Other entitlements, including reimbursement of expenses and a laundry allowance, were also not paid.
In handing down his verdict, Judge Alister McNab said Mr Tempany and Acute Health demonstrated a “pattern of conduct” and what appeared to be “a well-practised methodology”.
“There is a flagrant disregard for the rights of those employees,” he said.
“Notwithstanding the efforts of the FWO to educate the respondents, it appears that there has been no satisfactory change to the mode by which this company operates in relation to the way it treats its employees.”
Mr Tempany received instructions on workplace obligations as an employer from the FWO in 2012 and again in 2015.
Judge McNab also ordered that an external auditor monitor Acute Health’s future compliance.
Acute Health’s website could not be accessed at the time of publishing.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.
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