Legal proceedings are now underway against Yeon Beauty Salon Pty Ltd, which operated the Yeon Art Hair salon in Sydney’s northwest suburb of Eastwood, and the company’s sole director and manager, Mi Yeon Ha.
It’s a timely reminder for businesses thinking about underpaying their staff.
The message from the Fair Work Ombudsman is: don’t do it.
Fair work inspectors investigated the matter after the worker lodged a request for assistance.
The worker was employed at the salon between 2015 and 2019, after being sponsored by the business to work as a hairdresser, on a 457 skilled worker visa.
It is alleged Yeon Beauty Salon and Ms Ha required the worker to repay more than $100,000 of her wages and entitlements in cashback payments, thereby breaching the Fair Work Act 2009.
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said alleged underpayment of visa-holder matters like these are treated particularly harshly, as it often indicates exploitation in the workplace.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman will use all powers available to us to hold business operators to account when we encounter serious allegations that involve vulnerable workers,” Ms Parker said.
“All workers have the same rights in Australia regardless of nationality or visa status, and anyone with concerns about their pay or entitlements should contact the FWO for free assistance.”
It is also alleged the company underpaid the workers minimum wage rates, other allowances, and leave and entitlements for weekend, public holiday and overtime work, under the Hair and Beauty Industry Award 2010 and the Fair Work Act.
The records show the hairdressing business failed to make and keep records, sometimes issued false and misleading payslips, and often didn’t provide any payslips at all.
Facing the Federal Circuit Court on 4 June 2021, the business will be required to disprove a number of allegations if they contest the matter, under the Fair Work Act’s reverse onus provisions of the Protecting Vulnerable Workers amendments to the act.
Fair Work is seeking court-imposed penalties against the hairdressing company and costs requiring them to pay the worker $169,266 in compensation, back payments and interest.
The business, Yeon Beauty Salon Pty Ltd, faces maximum penalties of up to $63,000 for each breach, and the manager, Mi Yeon Ha, faces maximum penalties of up to $12,000 for each wrongdoing.