A plumber has faced court for the second time in 12 months over allegations of underpaying young employees by paying apprentice rates without having an approved apprenticeship agreement in place.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has launched proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court against Victorian man Michael Patrick Pulis and his company Pulis Plumbing (trading as Pulis Professional Plumbing).
The FWO has accused Mr Pulis and his business of underpaying a 23-year-old employee to the tune of $3,929 between July and September 2017, as well as falsifying employment records.
According to a statement issued by the FWO, the underpayment arose because the employee was paid the salary of a third-year apprentice, despite the employee not being formally signed up to an apprenticeship.
“In the absence of a formal apprenticeship agreement, it is alleged that the employee was entitled to be paid the minimum pay rates and entitlements that apply to a plumber’s labourer position under the Plumbing and Fire Sprinklers Award 2010,” the Ombudsman said in a statement.
“It is further alleged that Mr Pulis and his company failed to provide the employee with written notice of termination or one week’s pay in lieu of that notice, failed to keep records associated with the termination and failed to pay outstanding entitlements within two days of the termination.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman also alleges that Mr Pulis and his company provided inspectors with a falsified employer apprenticeship document and falsified time-and-wages records that purported to show the employee had been provided higher rates than was actually the case.”
Personal penalties for directors of up to $12,600 can be issued by the court for each breach of workplace rules, while companies can be fined up to $63,000 for every breach.
The matter is due to be heard on 4 December 2018.
Ombudsman Sandra Parker said that workplace laws dictated only those employed under a written apprenticeship agreement can be paid apprentice rates.
“Any employer who fails to comply with their workplace obligations may face legal action and significant financial penalties. When deciding which matters to take to court, the Fair Work Ombudsman considers allegations involving repeat non-compliance and young workers particularly seriously,” she said.
This forms the second time Mr Pulis and Pulis Professional Plumbing have faced court over incorrect classification of apprentices.
In February this year, he was fined $21,500 and his company penalised $100,000 for the same offence, which a judge ruled had been a deliberate action rather than a simple oversight.
That case involved the alleged underpayment of a 20-year-old employee to the tune of $26,882 over a three-month period.
Mr Pulis has been contacted for comment.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.