The Federal Circuit Court imposed an $11,340 penalty against Althaus Homes Pty Ltd and a $2,268 penalty against the company’s sole director, Ronald Alexander Althaus.
The penalties were imposed in response to Althaus Homes and Mr Althaus breaching the Fair Work Act by failing to comply with a compliance notice requiring them to calculate and back-pay leave entitlements owing to an apprentice carpenter employed between March and September 2019.
Fair Work inspectors commenced an investigation into Althaus Homes after receiving a request for assistance from the underpaid apprentice.
Althaus Homes fully back-paid the apprentice more than $1,500 owing to him only six months after the Fair Work Ombudsman commenced legal action.
The compliance notice was issued in November 2019 after an inspector formed a belief that the apprentice had contravened the Building and Construction General On-site Award 2010 and the Fair Work Act by failing to pay personal leave entitlements and accrued annual leave entitlements.
The employee had taken five days of personal leave when unwell but was not paid for four of those days.
Judge Michael Jarrett dismissed Mr Althaus’ claim that he had not clearly understood the compliance notice and found that Althaus Homes’ failure to comply “clearly demonstrates a reckless disregard for its obligations under the Fair Work Act and the authority of the applicant as a regulator of Commonwealth workplace laws”.
Judge Jarrett said if Althaus Homes had complied with the compliance notice within the specified time frame, “this proceeding would have been avoided altogether”.
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.