A Queensland crocodile farm has found itself in the jaws of the Fair Work Ombudsman, the latest in a string of businesses to have been found guilty of underpaying workers by thousands of dollars.
Two British backpackers working under 417 working holiday visas were found to have been underpaid more than $13,000 by the far north Queensland farm during their four-month stay in 2016.
While the experience they gained was something many people would jump at – including feeding the fearsome reptiles – the backpackers were less than thrilled to have discovered the flat rates they were paid fell short of award conditions.
The duo usually worked around 37 hours per week during their stay and were paid a flat weekly rate of $324, with one later receiving an increase to $463 per week.
Yet under the Pastoral Award, the workers should have been paid $22.13 for ordinary hours, and more for overtime and public holidays.
The underpayment was discovered when the backpackers contacted the Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) for clarification around whether their income had fulfilled the requirements for a second-year 417 visa.
Both workers have since been reimbursed in full.
“Employers need to be aware that we treat the underpayment of migrant workers particularly seriously and will not hesitate to take appropriate action to enforce the law when we become aware of an employer deliberately taking advantage of vulnerable workers,” Ms James said.
“Employers cannot undercut minimum wages, even if employees offer to accept lower rates,” she said.
The FWO has been cracking down on wage underpayment throughout the year, and has noted that many businesses are unintentionally finding themselves facing hefty backpay bills simply by not understanding the award rates and conditions under which their employees are covered.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.