The $1,250 penalty was imposed against Kerryn Elizabeth Ainley, who operates the Cleaning Fairy business in Ballarat as a sole trader.
The penalty was imposed in response to Ms Ainley breaching the Fair Work Act by failing to comply with a compliance notice requiring her to calculate and back-pay entitlements owing to four cleaners she had employed.
Fair Work inspectors commenced an investigation into Ms Ainley’s business after receiving requests for assistance from the four underpaid cleaners.
The compliance notice was issued in November 2019 after an inspector formed a belief that the employees had not received the casual loading they were entitled to under the Cleaning Services Award 2010.
Ms Ainley back-paid the cleaners, who had been underpaid a total of $18,603 over an 18-month period, only after the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced legal action against her.
The compliance notice was not fully complied with until about the day of the penalty hearing, in December 2020.
Judge Heather Riley said it was “fundamental that employers must pay their employees their minimum entitlements”.
“The scourge of the underpayment of low-skilled employees, who are not paid very much even when paid correctly, must be overcome,” Judge Riley said.
“The breach of the compliance notice was deliberate, in the sense that the respondent was well aware that she had been issued with the compliance notice, it required her to do certain things, and she did not do them.”
Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker said business operators that fail to act on compliance notices face court-imposed penalties in addition to having to back-pay underpaid staff.
“We make every effort to secure voluntary compliance with compliance notices, but where they are not followed, we are prepared to take legal action to ensure workers receive all their lawful entitlements,” Ms Parker said.