The unidentified Lake Macquarie business initially hired a young labourer as a casual, before agreeing to take him on a full apprenticeship.
Problems arose when the business did not properly complete the required documentation and registration process, meaning the apprenticeship was not valid.
Without proper registration, the employee then became entitled to be paid the full rate under the relevant award.
Over roughly a year, this disparity amounted to $25,220. That amount was paid back to the employee after the Fair Work Ombudsman found that because of the clerical issue, the worker was entitled to be paid as a level one and later level two engineering/manufacturing worker instead of an apprentice.
This was despite other employees, including a second apprentice, all having been found to have been paid correctly.
It comes following a warning by Employsure about public holiday wages, with employers asked to confirm whether their workers are employed under a particular award, and if so which one, given this will affect the amount they are entitled to be paid.
Fair Work Ombudsman Natalie James was unsympathetic about the complexity of workplace relations obligations, saying: “There has never been so much freely available information at fairwork.gov.au to assist employers to understand and comply with their obligations.”
“In our experience, many businesses are overconfident when it comes to the intricacies of our workplace laws,” she said.
“We will be taking an increasingly hard line with employers who have significant compliance issues and cannot demonstrate that they made a diligent effort to understand what award or industrial instrument applies to their workplace, what the correct classification for their employees is and what minimum pay rates apply.”