An alleged pay shortfall of more than $150,000 to a nanny and domestic worker — who was reportedly paid in Philippine pesos — has seen legal action launched against a Sydney businessman.
The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) issued a public statement alleging that Kit Antony (Tony) Lam and his wife Ming Wei (Tiffanie) Tong requested a Filipino nanny and housekeeper to work between 88 and 106 hours each week for a full year, between May 2016 and May 2017.
In return, it is alleged they paid the woman 40,000 Philippine pesos each month, which the FWO said equated to a yearly salary in Australian dollars of $12,574 — or $2.33 per hour.
Court documents pertaining to the case held by the Fair Work Ombudsman, and seen by My Business, state that Mr Lam is the “sole director and shareholder” of Australian Property Funding Group Pty Ltd, which trades as Award Mortgage Solutions.
On its website, the company claims to be “the biggest and most professional Chinese mortgage broking firm in Australia”, having been established in 2005.
The brokerage operates a number of offices across Sydney, and also has branches in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth as well as support offices in the Philippines and China.
As well as mortgages, the brokerage also offers a range of business and commercial loan services, including for finance for construction, equipment, development and self-managed super funds (SMSFs).
Mr Lam was contacted for comment on the matter. My Business was told by someone at his office that he was not immediately available, and would respond “if” he wished to make a comment.
Alleged underpayments ‘concerning’: FWO
According to the FWO, the nanny should have been paid according to the conditions prescribed by the Miscellaneous Award, including the payment of penalty rates and overtime allowances. That would have entitled the woman to a standard rate of between $17.29 and $18.91 per hour, and as much as $37.82 for every hour of overtime.
In launching the legal action, the FWO is alleging total wage underpayments of $155,178.90.
Should the court decide that the nanny was not covered by the Miscellaneous Award, the minimum wage would still have been between $17.29 and $17.70 per hour, which the FWO alleges amounts to an underpayment of $85,834, the workplace regulator said.
Ms Tong will also face court for her alleged role in requiring the nanny to work beyond a standard 38 hours per week, the FWO said.
“The scale of the alleged underpayments and the unreasonable work hours are concerning,” ombudsman Sandra Parker said.
“We allege the worker in this case was vulnerable to exploitation given she was new to Australia, resided with Mr Lam and his family, and did not know what her workplace rights were.”
Nanny allegedly hired by business
The FWO’s Statement of Claim to the Federal Court alleges that the nanny was interviewed for the position at Award Mortgage Solutions’ offices.
It continued by alleging that she was “employed by or otherwise associated with” the business.
Mr Lam is also listed as the CEO of Metro Award Group, which operates from the same office in Sydney’s CBD as Award Mortgage Solutions.
As well as full back pay plus interest, the FWO is seeking financial penalties against the couple in the Federal Court, where a case management hearing is held on 29 October this year.
Visas won’t be cancelled by contacting FWO
Visa holders are entitled to Australian legislated rates or pay and working conditions, and the FWO’s Ms Parker said that they can also request the assistance of her office.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman has an agreement with the Department of Home Affairs where visa holders can ask for our help without fear of their visa being cancelled,” she said.
“Any workers with concerns about their pay, hours of work or entitlements should contact us.”
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.
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